When Lulu Cerone was ten-years-old, her life was forever changed when she saw the horrible devastation from Haiti’s 2010 earthquake on the news. Living a comfortable existence in suburban Los Angeles, she felt that she had to do something to help. Her parents had always encouraged her to give back, so she decided to organize a lemonade stand war between the boys and girls at her school. That initial event was a huge success, raising $4,000 for the earthquake victims, and it was the social highlight of the year. From there, LemonAID Warriors was born. The non-profit organization uses “PhilanthroParties” to raise money for a range of global organizations. To date, more than $100,000 has been raised.
These PhilanthroParties are parties with a purpose. A consummate DIY expert and budding chef, the 17-year-old decided to share her interests and knowledge in her new book, PhilanthroParties, A Party Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back. Each month, the book showcases different ideas with seasonal recipes and easy DIY crafts. Lulu’s goal is to spread her enthusiasm for social activism to kids everywhere. I had the opportunity to chat with the illustrious teen, and she provided more insight on her humanitarian efforts and how she hopes others will contribute.
You’ve done a ton of great charity events and your book provides so many ideas— is there a top one or three that are your favorites and why?
Each PhilanthroParty makes a positive impact in one of three ways: by collecting donations, raising awareness, or spreading kindness.
1. My favorite donation-collecting PhilanthroParty is probably the Beauty Brunch. I invite my friends over for a spa day, and we give each other manicures and facials and make DIY spa crafts. In keeping with the theme of the party, everyone brings in toiletries to donate to a local shelter.
2. My favorite awareness-raising PhilanthroParty is the Ugly Food Feast. Americans waste 70 billion tons of food each year, more than enough to solve our hunger problem. To make this point, I cook a delicious meal for my friends solely using food that grocery stores usually throw away, like imperfect fruits and vegetables and juice pulp. It’s a great way to start the conversation about food waste in my community.
3. Then, there are the kindness PhilanthroParties. Although simple acts of kindness aren’t considered typical philanthropy, kindness is at the heart of giving back, and so many of my PhilanthroParty ideas center around simply spreading goodwill. For example, my friends and I once had a crafting party where we made traditional May Day baskets with paper flowers and small gifts. Then, we delivered them to a convalescent homes and spent time with the seniors. Just that simple act made their days so much brighter.
All of these parties are featured in my book!
What inspired you to write this book and get into humanitarian work?
I’ve been throwing PhilanthroParties since I was ten-years-old, and so community service was a natural part of my life growing up. But I’ve noticed that there’s a serious lack of opportunities for young people to express their compassion. Most organizations require their volunteers to be at least 16 [years old], and when there is a volunteer opportunity that kids can get involved with, it’s usually an annual event or a project that’s over in a day or two. So I decided to start my organization, LemonAID Warriors, to share my PhilanthroParty ideas and provide kids with the tools to incorporate social action into their daily lives. Although LemonAID Warriors was started as an organization more oriented toward younger people, PhilanthroParties are extremely adaptable and really applicable to any age group. My book is a compilation of my favorite PhilanthroParties, as well as lessons and tips I’ve learned along the way.
What advice can you give to other teenagers and young adults who are interested in getting more involved within their community and/or charity work?
The first step toward making an impact is picking a cause that matters to you. I cannot stress how important this is. Finding an issue that you’re emotionally connected to will make your work so meaningful and keep you motivated along the way. You may already have an idea of what that cause is, or maybe you have to do some research. Keeping up with the news and staying in touch with current events, especially these days, is a great place to start; notice which problems give you a visceral response, and then take action from there.
Is there anyone that you look up to or have met during your volunteering efforts who inspired and/or changed your life?
I have met so many incredible, genuine people through LemonAID Warriors. But when I was 12-years-old, I was invited to participate in a conference hosted by the amazing multi-Grammy winning musician and producer, Nile Rodgers. He founded the We Are Family Foundation with the goal to amplify the voices of young change-makers and give them tools and training to grow their ideas. That week changed my life. I met 30 young social activists from around the world and got to spend the week with one of the greatest musical geniuses of our time. I’m also a musician, so that was an added bonus for sure.
What do you want readers to take away from your book?
I really hope that readers see how easy it is to make social action a part of their lives. Young people have so much passion and want to enact change, but often times they don’t know where to begin or don’t think they can fit a community service project into their busy schedules. I hope they will be inspired to turn something that’s already on their calendar into a chance to do good. Adding a philanthropic element to social gatherings is such a simple gesture, but it can truly go a long way. Plus, if my generation is to combat all of the challenges that we’ve inherited, we must make activism an ongoing part of everything that we do.