Lemon Aid

Charlotte Boultinghouse and Amur tiger

An Amur tiger meets his number-one fan during Charlotte Boultinghouse's visit to the zoo to donate money she'd raised from lemonade stand sales.

A young feline fan puts a new twist on seed money for wildlife conservation

Most kids who set up lemonade stands in their front yards blow their profits on candy bars and toys. Charlotte Boultinghouse takes a more philanthropic approach to her Oak Park operation.

One day this past April, the 7-year-old began pitching a wildlife conservation message while hawking cool drinks to business commuters walking past her family’s home on Lombard Street to the CTA Blue Line station.

“My sign said ‘Lemonade: Donate for the Tigers’,” says Charlotte, who donated the day’s $28 in net proceeds to Lincoln Park Zoo, which participates in the Tiger Species Survival Plan®, a shared conservation effort by zoos throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. “I like tigers because they’re very good at camouflage, and they’re very strong, big and cute.”

Charlotte's lemonade-stand signage features conservation-oriented cartoons.

The grade schooler’s interest in big cats goes far beyond the typical affection children often have for such magnificent mammals.

“Since my daughter was little, and especially since we became Lincoln Park Zoo members, she’s been fascinated by big cats,” says Charlotte’s mom, Rachel, whose appreciation for the zoo first blossomed when she lived nearby at Lincoln and Armitage avenues.

“She’s remarkably empathetic. We went to the Lion House when she was two-and-a-half, and we were the only people in there when Adelor [the zoo’s former male lion] roared. It echoed throughout the building. It was the first time she’d heard that. Her face froze. I told her the lion was saying hello and tried to make it a positive experience.”

Rachel’s parental instincts must have worked. Charlotte’s third birthday was a lion-themed affair where everyone wore lion masks. Her bedroom is filled with various big-cat plush toys. Two years ago, she received two ADOPT gift packages for the Kovler Lion House's jaguar and puma, which benefited the animals' care. She has stacks of books on big cats and avidly watches any nature programs on the subject.

“She’s totally okay with seeing the cats hunt. It’s just the circle of life,” says Rachel. “And she’s the first one to correct me on animal fabric prints: ‘Mom, that’s leopard, not jaguar.’ ”

"She's the first one to correct me on animal fabric prints," says Rachel Boultinghouse of her daughter's feline fashion sense.

Rachel’s mom, Cy Carlson, a longtime volunteer for numerous causes, is the wellspring of the family’s altruistic spirit. “My mom was the one who suggested calling Lincoln Park Zoo to donate the money from the lemonade stand sales and tip jar,” says Rachel. “It never dawned on me you could actually do that. Why not go to our local place where people are doing things that reverberate around the world?”

Not only could they do that, but Caren Friedman, the zoo’s director of annual giving, arranged a special meeting with Rachel and Charlotte. Charlotte presented her $28 donation to Friedman in front of the Amur tiger exhibit.

“Caren explained the zoo’s Species Survival Plan program for the tigers,” says Rachel. “Now Charlotte tells people the big cats will have the money to find husbands and wives.”

Charlotte plans to continue squeezing contributions from customers at her lemonade stand this summer, making sure they know their pocket change and the occasional one or five dollar bill are going to an important cause.

“It’s for the tigers because they’re an endangered species,” says Charlotte. “I thought if I raised money for them I could help a little bit.”

Charlotte delivered her lemonade stand proceeds to the zoo's Caren Friedman in front of her favorite zoo destination: the Kovler Lion House.


by Craig Keller • Published June 11, 2012


Zoo Families
Packs, herds, troops and flocks—families come in all shapes and sizes at Lincoln Park Zoo. Learn more about the diverse living arrangements among our resident species, and get the inside story on the zoo's new gorilla bachelor troop in the Summer 2012 issue of Lincoln Park Zoo's award-winning magazine!


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