One of California’s greatest gems is indisputably the vast redwood forests that cover northern parts of the state. Towering over 300 feet tall with bases of 15-20 feet not uncommon, even the simplest of men can stand at their trunks in absolute wonder and awe. And simple we all are next to such a magnificent living thing. The most spectacular redwoods we have come across in our travels were those near and along the Avenue of the Giants. This autotour winds in and out of grove after grove of these spectacular trees -- all the while leaving tourists staring at the sky in amazement.

Avenue of the Giants took us through the small town of Miranda, CA, where we had planned to pick up some groceries to get us through a long day of driving. Before we reached the small town market, we noticed a little set up along the roadside -- a good old fashioned child-run lemonade stand! For one dollar and one dollar only, folks, you could grab yourself a tall glass of ice cold Country Time lemonade. While lemonade might not have been what we were seeking out at the time, we couldn’t help but notice the two young girls behind one of the best painted lemonade signs we’d ever seen.

Without so much as a “yep” of agreement, we spun the car around and parked ourselves on the dirt shoulder. We were greeted by the smiles of two young ladies, Starla and Ariana, offering some of their fine lemonade. We picked up a cup for each of us and chatted them up. “What made you decide to start a lemonade stand? Are you saving up for something?” Nate asked the girls. “Well, we really want to buy ice cream.” Starla responded. “There’s this Ben and Jerry’s ice cream she’s tried but I haven’t tried it yet.” Selling sweet lemonade to buy sweet ice cream; these girls had it figured it out.

We pried a little more into their reasons for earning and saving up some money. We asked if they hoped for new bikes or toys, some standard childhood hopes. “No, just ice cream. Oh, and MRE’s!” they told us. MRE’s? Why MRE’s? The girls told us of their hopes to hike a trail with their dads that they had not yet hiked. Somewhere down the line, the girls had heard that MRE’s would be a perfect addition to their upcoming hike. MRE’s and ice cream, we should have guessed!

Nate asked for another cup of lemonade and the girls hurried to fill up his cup. As he pulled out some cash for the girls, he put forward quite a bit extra saying, “Girls, we really hope this can help out your fundraising.” Immediately, Starla’s jaw dropped. “Whoa! Ariana, look! We have to go show my mom!” With a quick “thank you,” the two of them ran off into the house. As we laughed, Ariana stopped in her tracks asking if we could watch their lemonade stand for a minute. Shane didn’t hold back from taking a seat on one of the small chairs. Not surprisingly, Project Wildness made no lemonade sales for those few minutes.

The girls returned running with huge smiles on their faces. Each shook our hands, still in disbelief, and thanked us once again. As we turned with a wave and headed back toward the redwoods, the two girls looked at each other with dropped jaws, big eyes, and adorable smiles. Ice cream and MRE’s for everyone!

Enjoy the sweetness of a child’s smile. ‪#‎ProjectWildness‬


To Vickie and Chuck C… The two of us have known you since elementary school. We both spent plenty of time around your son and both you and Chuck at sporting events over the years. The beautiful work you have done and continue to do with children is impressive to say the least. I can still remember passing you in the hallway as a 3 foot tall elementary student, and you always greeted me with a smile and greeting -- and still do. Continue the selfless work you do, and know that your donation made a likely forever memory for two young girls in California.

To Liz S… When I first told you about this project, your face lit up. I immediately knew you genuinely believed in what we were going to do. You didn’t hesitate to open your purse with the request that we use your donation for a child who needed a pick me up. Believe me when I say those girls will likely hang on to those smiles for a long time because of what you helped do for them. You maintain a smile and positive energy each time you come around, and just know the world appreciates you for that!

To Lucas J… From the first day of working together, you were one of the coolest people I knew. You’re laid back, interested in others and the world, positive, and an absolute great example for how so many of us should approach each day. I’ve seen you reach out to not only me but also to others who needed a hand here or there. You may not remember those simple acts, but they don’t go unnoticed. Keep being you.

To Gina M… You supported a cause we really believe in and couldn’t be happier to tell you that two girls are smiling even brighter because of your donation. You put trust in us to find people who could benefit from what you had to offer. Those girls couldn’t have been happier! Thanks for your contribution and keep doing good!