Nine-year-old Lanning Kistler likes helping children in need. So does his 8-year-old brother, Colton Walters. Together, they have teamed up for an annual daylong fundraiser for charitable causes that benefit other children.
It started four years ago, just before Lanning’s father, Army Capt. John Kistler, deployed to Iraq. Lanning asked if he could open a lemonade stand outside their Vanstory Hills home. He asked his father if they could donate the money from lemonade sales to a cause that would benefit other children.
John Kistler agreed and helped Lanning open his first lemonade stand. They chose Missions of Hope International, an organization dedicated to building schools in Kenya, as the beneficiary. That first year, Lanning earned $473 for his charity.
Success breeds success, and Lanning wanted to do it again. The next year, in 2019, he almost tripled his revenue to $1,210. But he had help. The Kistlers that year became a blended family when John married Jennifer Walters. Her son is Colton.
The team was complete, and the lemonade stand was rebranded as Lanning’s Lemonade & Colton’s Cookies. The two entrepreneurs made T-shirts sporting their logo and created a Facebook page.
Jennifer added her food expertise, honed by her ownership of the Firehouse Subs restaurant on Glensford Drive. And Colton added his cookies. That year’s earnings went to the Boys & Girls Homes of North Carolina.
Every penny earned goes to their chosen charity. “No money is taken out for expenses or supplies,” John says.
As with many other facets of life, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily put a halt to the brothers’ lemonade-and-cookies venture in 2020.
When they resumed sales in 2021, they wanted to keep the giving centered on something that benefits children, John says. The new organization that received $2,575 was the Child Advocacy Center on Rowan Street.
“I like raising as much money as we can for the Child Advocacy Center and helping other kids in Fayetteville,” Lanning says.
Colton says the secret of his cookies is the chocolate chips — both brown and white chocolate — and lots of them. And M&M candy. Colton says his cookies are delicious because, “I always put a lot of love into the cookies and lemonade when we make it. That’s my favorite part.”
“We don’t use the M&Ms with peanuts in case someone is allergic to them,” Jennifer adds.
Lanning makes his lemonade with lemonade powder, gallons of water, real lemons, and ice. You can buy it by the cup or by the gallon.
The boys hold their annual fundraiser in late summer, after the family vacation. They scheduled this year’s sale on Aug. 20 at the entrance to Vanstory Hills. They haven’t decided on the time yet. The recipient this year again will be the Child Advocacy Center.
“The Child Advocacy Center did a great job promoting and supporting us last year,” Jennifer says.
She adds that public response was overwhelming, noting that even City Council members came by. Someone even donated animal balloons.
“Every year, we want it to be bigger and better. We started out in the front yard on a rickety card table,” John says.
Since then, he has built a more substantial lemonade stand. Currently, it’s lying disassembled in his garage, waiting to be put to use later this summer.
The family fundraiser is a way to get the boys involved in their community, John says. “It lets them be involved locally at least through high school.”
Jennifer says the project “brought us together as a blended family.”
With the brothers working together and Jennifer’s mom making signs and providing fresh flowers for the stand have made it a total family venture.
The boys take an active role in all aspects of operating the lemonade and cookie stand. They help Jennifer get the lemonade made and cookies ready for the oven the night before the sale.
“They help me prep Friday night, and we’re usually up until midnight,” Jennifer says.
But taking cookies out of the hot oven is mom’s job.
“It’s a hands-on project. They’re able to see the results of everything they do,” John says.
How long will they go on?
“Until I’m 20,” Lanning says without hesitation.