Berkeley youths raise more than $5K for families separated at US border

Amanda Ramirez/Senior Staff

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Ten-year-old Lily Ellis and 9-year-old Lauren Jones held a fundraiser on Addison Street on Sunday to raise money for families separated at the U.S. border with Mexico.

The girls collected more than $2,000 for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, a nonprofit organization from Texas that provides legal aid to separated families and other undocumented immigrants and refugees by selling hot chocolate and churros for donations. The pair partnered with Freight & Salvage, a local coffeehouse and music venue, Jenny’s Churros — which is owned by Jones’ mother — and the Grammy-nominated youth music group Alphabet Rockers, of which Ellis is a member.

The girls got the idea after hearing about 7-year-old Benton Stevens, whose story went viral after he created a hot chocolate stand in Austin, Texas to raise money in support of President Donald Trump’s border wall.

“I would say (to Stevens), ‘Thank you for inspiring us to do this,’ ” Jones said.

According to Ellis, at first, the idea was not expected to be big or receive any attention. Ellis said, however, that it quickly became clear that the event would be widely supported.

“(We) started with an idea and hot chocolate, but then it just grew and grew,” Ellis said.

Many people who stopped by the fundraiser expressed support for the cause. No protesters or critics vocalized their opinions during the event.

In addition to their fundraising event, the girls are also collecting money from outside supporters via GoFundMe, with a goal of raising $5,000. As of press time, the total proceeds from the campaign are more than $5,000, and the GoFundMe page is still accepting donations.

According to Zoe Ellis, Lily Ellis’ mother, members of the housing association in Texas where Stevens lives have even contributed to the campaign.

“If someone were to separate us, we would go crazy,” Zoe Ellis said. She added that her daughter did not support the wall, so Lily decided to do a fundraiser of her own.

Campaign supporter Eloise McGaw attended the event to support the Alphabet Rockers and the girls. She added that she found the girls’ drive impressive.

“They’re not just singers; they are activists,” she said. “They are our future.”

Regarding the future, the girls do not have any other events planned but are open to organizing more in the future. They have advocated for keeping families together in the past; for example, in June, Lily Ellis helped organize a rally at Lake Merritt.

The girls, as well as their parents, said their movement was not founded on hate, but on support and love.

“We just don’t want children to be separated,” Jones said.

Contact Katherine Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC ‏.