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Entrepreneur, philanthropist, third-grader

Donation ‘huge game-changer’ in pandemic year

Northview — Cydney Warner has long been looking out for anyone who feels left out. 

Mom, Jessica, remembers hearing from her daughter a couple years ago about recess-time spent sitting at the buddy bench, keeping an eye out for those hoping for someone to play with.

Cydney Warner recently was honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals West Michigan chapter with the organization’s Outstanding Youth Philanthropist award (courtesy)

In first grade, Cydney started a sports club at lunchtime after some older boys wouldn’t let her play with them.

“We’ve been told since she was in kindergarten that she just seems to have a gathering (presence),” Jessica Warner said. “She’s always had a unique way about her in bringing people together.”

And a lemonade stand Cydney operated for two days in her front yard this summer resulted in her most inclusive undertaking yet.

Cydney, a third-grader at East Oakview Elementary, took in some $1,500 from her $1-a-cup lemonade venture, thanks not only to foot and drive-by traffic, but to her parents’ former college classmates, friends and relatives who knew she planned to pass her profits on to an organization that promotes equity and racial justice.

With guidance from Mom and Dad, Chris Warner, Cydney chose to donate to The Diatribe, a nonprofit group that uses spoken word, creative writing and performance poetry to promote discussion about equity and inclusion. Or as Cydney put it, “an organization where they go to schools and let people talk about what’s held inside of them.” 

Cydney Warner met this summer with The Diatribe Executive Director Marcel Price. Here is the Instagram post on it from The Diatribe (courtesy)

Cydney said The Diatribe’s mission appealed to her because “I want to see black people get to do what white people get to do, and for them not getting killed for the color of their skin.”

Cydney recently was honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of West Michigan with the organization’s “Outstanding Youth Philanthropist” award. She and others were honored this year during a Nov. 19 virtual event, which can be viewed on the association’s Facebook page.

“We applaud her efforts to get involved and active at the young age of 7,” said Ashley Diersch, co-chairperson for the local National Philanthropy Day event and Board of Directors member for the Association of Fundraising Professionals West Michigan chapter. “The future of fundraising is in the hands of our local youth like Cydney, and we can’t wait to see what she does in the future.”

Said Cydney’s mom in an email to East Oakview Principal Danielle Stanley: “I credit a lot of her leadership qualities to her time spent within East Oakview’s walls and the amazing teachers that she has had. We feel truly blessed to be a part of the Northview community, and as parents we will continue to strive to raise good, kind leaders that will eventually lead this country and do amazing things.”

Cydney Warner donated her lemonade stand earnings to The Diatribe (courtesy)

Restoring Hope

Cydney’s donation came at a crucial time for The Diatribe, said Executive Director Marcel Price, a.k.a. Fable the Poet. Following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent peaceful protests and outbreaks of property damage across the U.S., Price put out this statement

Of the many who heard it and reached out, he said, were Cydney and her parents.

Given that The Diatribe’s annual budget is around $100,000 and its largest fundraiser had to be canceled due to the pandemic, Price said Cydney’s $1,500 was “a huge game-changer” that meant the group’s summer poetry program for about 50 area young people could go forward.

For Price, Cydney’s donation lifted a sense of hollowness he had been feeling as he witnessed reactions from some to the growing Black Lives Matter movement, he said.

“Like people were forgetting why people were mad in the first place, (and) people forgot there are a lot of people who are suffering, who we are kind of ignoring. A lot of us face way more adversity than others, and it’s important we pay attention to that.”

So when he heard about Cydney’s donation, “it did bring me a ton of joy seeing a kid say ‘What can I do? I can use my resources,’” said Price, who nominated her for the award. “Our kids always blow me away; that’s why we do the work. 

“If most people just did what they could all the time, I think the world would be a better place.”

A screenshot of Cydney during a profile interview shown at the Association of Fundraising Professionals West Michigan chapter awards ceremony
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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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