Joy Gabriel isn’t a celebrity philanthropist. She doesn’t own a large charitable foundation and she isn’t running a campaign to secure constituent votes. Gabriel is a stay-at-home mom living in Long Island City with her husband and two young kids. Yet this seemingly unexceptional NY mom saw a photo of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi on her facebook news feed and she knew she could no longer remain apathetic to the situation in Syria. “I have a 2 year old son and the similarity {between Aylan and my son} was so striking. Something about his sneakers…I just couldn’t get that image out of my head.”

Soonafter, Gabriel’s husband flew overseas as part of a filming crew and saw firsthand the reality of the refugee crisis on the Hungarian border. The stories and images he shared with her upon his return left her feeling helpless. “I couldn’t sleep at night. It just felt wrong that this massive crisis was happening and we couldn’t help.” To compound her concern, there seemed to be a general sense of detachment from many of her peers; it seemed difficult for some Americans to separate the terrorist label from the victims of the crisis.

“I turned on one of the interviews my husband filmed and saw this man holding his daughter. They asked him what he wanted people to know and he said, ‘That we are human.’ A light bulb went off. That is everything I believe. I knew I had to take my sadness and turn it into something else or it was going to swallow me whole. I needed to affirm what I heard that little girl’s Daddy say, what I know in my heart to be true, and what I want to teach my children more than anything – that we are all human. It doesn’t matter where we live, what language we speak or what God we do or do not pray to. When someone is in this kind of trouble, you find a way to help. We are all human.”

Gabriel posted a call to action in the Long Island City facebook group for local moms and dads and asked if there were other families interested in aiding the Syrian refugees. That post prompted Melissa Lirtsman to join the effort. Lirtsman, who’s husband’s family came to the US as refugees of anti-semitism, applied her skills as a digital/creative consultant to maximize Gabriel’s work. “I offered to set up the online campaign so we could capture donations near and far and have a visible way to show how much our community raised together.”

Over the course of a weekend, the logo was made, details were secured for both a virtual and physical Lemon-AID stand, and the fundraiser got off the ground quickly as volunteers and donations began streaming in. Their goal is to raise $5k by Saturday, October 3rd. All proceeds will go to Save the Children, an organization helping nearly 6 million kids facing abhorrent conditions as refugees. Lirtsman explains, “We are all parents and have two driving motivators in getting involved. First, we are incredibly fortunate in our community and cannot imagine our families and children suffering, but over 12 million Syrians are {suffering} right now; half of them are children. That fact alone hits close to home even if it is a world away. Secondly, we want our children to grow up with hearts that are open to others’ pain and hands that are quick to help. So kids will be manning the lemonade stand, right alongside their parents.”

The Lemon-AID stand is an incredible testament to the power of one. One woman decided it was time to stand up for the precious lives of children halfway around the world and in her decision, she has informed, inspired and ignited families around the country to take an active role – however big or small – in lending time, talent or treasure to people who are very much in need. Gabriel remarks, “We can’t stop a war or house 100,000 people by Christmas. But we can open our hearts (and hopefully, our wallets) while teaching our kids that we are all human after all. I think that counts for something.”

Interested in supporting the LIC Lemon-AID stand? Details for Saturday’s live event (Oct. 3, 10am-1230pm) can be found on the FB LIC lemon-aid event page and you can also donate online. All donations will go to Save the Children.