(INSIDE EDITION) For the last nine years, a little girl in suburban Long Island born with a cleft lip has been raising thousands of dollars for babies born just like her.
Ella Pastorelli’s lemonade stand has taken in more than $120,000, her mother estimates.
“It’s crazy,” the New York mom told InsideEdition.com Monday.
The annual event is held on Ella’s birthday. On Sunday, Ella’s lemonade stand raised $19,000.
The gathering is more community picnic than lone lemonade table, with folks "hanging out, bouncing on the bouncy house, having something to eat" Pastorelli said. Some 200 people dropped by.
Ella was out there all day, her mom said, playing with friends and helping gather donations. The money doesn’t just come from lemonade purchases.
“Someone just dropped off $100 and said, ‘I like what you’re doing,’’’ Pastorelli said. She has no idea who he was. “That’s a lot of money for someone to give.”
Giving is also what the Pastorellis do.
Every cent of the money they raise goes to Smile Train, an international charity that provides free surgeries to children with cleft lips and cleft palates. The procedures can cost as little as $250.
When Pastorelli was pregnant with Ella, she learned her daughter had a cleft lip. It was repaired in surgery that Ella had as a baby, but she remains dedicated to the cause.
“We learned about it,” she said of the condition, in which the lip is separated, or in the case of a cleft palate, where the roof of the mouth is affected. They also learned about the Smile Train organization.
“We couldn’t imagine not having the means to fix something for your child,” Pastorelli said. “We’ve been involved ever since.”
Ella and her parents have been hawking lemonade since her first birthday, when they raised $500.
This year, Pastorelli said she asked her daughter if she really wanted to have the event on her ninth birthday.
“I don’t want to make her do it on her birthday if she doesn’t want to. But she wants to. She loves it,” her mom said.