Actor Jeff Bridges visits Mesa's Zaharis Elementary after lemonade stand philanthropy - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Actor Jeff Bridges visits Mesa's Zaharis Elementary after lemonade stand philanthropy

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Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 2:32 pm | Updated: 11:14 pm, Tue Apr 23, 2013.

Zaharis Elementary's Lemonade Club presented $414 to Academy Award winner, author and musician Jeff Bridges, international spokesperson for Share Our Strength: No Kid Hungry, last week. Principal Mike Oliver shared this story:

We've all passed by them. While I'm almost always "too busy" to stop, I enjoy watching the little faces light up when I do.

I sometimes ask, "What are you going to do with the money you earn?" Of course, the lemonade stand is part of Americana.

I hope they don't fade away like drive-in movies, newspaper boys and Twinkies. Not that I really ever liked Twinkies. I just felt like part of our culture died the day the plant closed down.

The Lemonade Club

The lemonade stand has been resurrected by first-graders at Mesa's Zaharis Elementary. What did they do with the money they earned? You may be surprised.

Selling lemonade at special school events and on Fridays after school has led to donations earmarked for the Phoenix Zoo, United Food Bank and No Kid Hungry. In all, the first-graders have contributed about $1,100 to philanthropic causes.

On April 18, Academy Award winner, author and musician Jeff Bridges visited Zaharis to join forces with our little social scientists. It was a moment we won't soon forget.

He pulled into the parking lot in an older-model Jeep Cherokee — without an entourage. He expressed a genuine interest in Zaharis and was surprised to discover that it wasn't a private school. He greeted the office staff like they were old friends.

He wanted to know all about the history of the lemonade stand and the inspiration behind it. He played with our first-graders and sang songs with them.

The spirit of what first-graders are about

He picked up a guitar, along with one of his band members, and led us all in a chorus of "What a Little Bit of Love Can Do," a song he wrote that captures the spirit of what the first-graders are about.

He agreed to an interview with one of our first-graders. He offered messages of turning outward to help take on the No Kid Hungry campaign, for which he is the international spokesman. He accepted a check for $414.85. And he commented on how it's not typical for schools to be giving money away these days.

He left his imprint upon the school for all to see by signing our wall and thanking us "for making him a Soaring Eagle for life." Later, while performing at the Mesa Arts Center, Jeff told the story of his visit to Zaharis and then dedicated the entire night's concert to the "kids of Zaharis."

Jeff Bridges is so much more than an actor. He is a difference-maker who is not much unlike the first-graders he now associates with. I'm going to visit the lemonade stand.

Mike Oliver is principal of Zaharis Elementary School in the Mesa Unified School District.

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