It all started with a lemonade stand on a busy street corner in Oak Park.
For the past three years, neighbors knew they could find Camille Sander at the same spot week after week, selling fresh-squeezed juice, homemade cookies and handcrafted bracelets she made herself. The elementary school student is a budding entrepreneur with a heart as golden as the juice in her cups.
“I care deeply about firefighters,” the 11-year-old wrote in a letter to the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund when she donated $302 of her earnings to help those in need. “We are one big family.”
After countless hours spent weaving bracelets, baking cookies, running the stand and collecting dollars and change, Camille was inspired to donate a portion of her hard-earned money to the charity by her biggest hero: her dad. Dave Sander is a Captain with the Los Angeles City Fire Department, working at Fire Station 104. After 25 years of service, Camille has heard plenty of stories about her dad’s heroic acts – even ones that took place before she was born. For example, Camille will proudly tell anyone who asks about her father’s Medal of Valor.
“I try to be humble about it,” Dave said recently about his award. “There are guys who do a lot more than I did.”
Medal of Valor
The award came for Sander’s rapid response after a Fire Department helicopter crashed in Griffith Park in 1998 while rushing a critically injured girl to the hospital. His unit was second on the scene that day. The 12-year-old girl and three firefighters inside the helicopter were tragically killed, but the pilot and another crew member survived thanks to help from first responders who rushed to the park. In the weeks that followed, the entire Los Angeles Fire Department mourned the three men who died trying to save the life of a child. Decades later, the charity continues to stay connected to the surviving families and has awarded college scholarships to each of the sons and daughters of one of the firefighters killed.
Twenty years later, Sander and his wife focus on setting a good example for their daughter. Throughout the year they donate money to various charities. While they’ve taught their daughter the importance of giving back, even they are sometimes awed by the extent of Camille’s unselfishness, and find themselves reminding her to enjoy the results of her own effort a little more.
“Any time she receives a gift for her birthday she wants to donate it and put it in an envelope,” Sanders said of his daughter’s generosity. He and his wife supported Camille’s small business by helping her pick the busiest corner to set up shop. “People are very generous here in Oak Park, but she’s also a marketer. She’s going to own her own business one day and part of her revenues will definitely be going to help other people, I’ll tell you that.”
Sweet Dreams for the Future
When she grows up, Camille hopes to turn her time in the kitchen into a career as a chef or a baker. Until then, she’s going to continue with her lemonade stand, always remembering people like her dad who are willing to sacrifice everything to keep her safe.
“Thank you to all the hard workers out there who risk their lives for others each and every day,” Camille wrote at the end of the letter before signing her name.
Learn more about opportunities to support our firefighter charity
By Kate Cagle