Eight-year-old Lincoln Cole is trying to turn lemons into lemonade — or rather clean drinking water — following a negative experience at a Toronto Blue Jays game last week.
To say the Hillcrest Public School third-grader was excited to go to the Oct. 1 home game with his dad would be an bit of an understatement, but that joy quickly turned to sadness and frustration after the pair was forced to leave the game following a complaint they made about the amount of water the youngster received from one of the concession stands.
Father and son used to regularly attend games, but this was their first time back to Rogers Centre since prior to the pandemic.
“I said to him, ‘Here’s $15 to spend at the game’ and he could spend it however he liked. He wanted to get popcorn and a pop, so we went to the concession,” father Bob Cole says. “He said he was still thirsty because pop doesn’t really quench your thirst and asked if he could get some water. I told him he wouldn’t have to worry about (not having enough money) because water is free.”
Bob says when they asked for a cup filled with water, they didn’t provide much more than four ounces in the large cup, adding he spoke to a manager at the stadium and was told to “take it or leave it” and that "because they sell water on site, they can’t be giving it away for free.”
“I thought to myself, that’s really a terrible message to be sending an eight-year-old, and I expressed that respectfully to her," he adds. "As I began to walk away with the pop and the popcorn, she then accused us of not paying for it… (and) security got involved and it was blown way out of proportion and we were directed away from the stadium.
"It was a pretty traumatic experience and we were upset, but we made the best of it and went to the CN Tower.”
It was while leaving the CN Tower that Lincoln told his dad that he’d recently learned in school about the many Indigenous communities that don’t have access to clean drinking water and how he felt it was unfair.
“When we came home, I remembered the 92 Calls For Action that I learned about in school and I remembered one of them was 'We call on Canada to support us to get clean drinking water…” says Lincoln.
Learning people in other communities didn’t have clean drinking water left him upset, he says.
“It made me feel like this is not really fair. This is a human right that everybody should have,” Lincoln says. “My fundraiser is about Anishinaabe people and how many Anishinaabe communities don’t have clean drinking water.”
A few days after the incident, the pair started thinking about how to turn their negative experience into a positive one, and after some online sleuthing, they came across Creemore-based initiative Water First, which provides education and training to get clean water to communities that need it.
With the help of his dad, Lincoln set up a GoFundMe page and set a goal of raising $1,000 for the organization. In the first two days, he raised $160. As of 6 p.m., on Friday, Oct. 8, the fundraiser had raised $260.
Lincoln is feeling “pretty good” about having raised that much money in only two days, and said he would love to be able to get the attention of his favourite teams and players and get them to help.
“We are wondering if all our favourite teams including the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays will help,” he says, adding Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Jays shortstop Bo Bichette, centre-fielder George Springer and first-baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are his current favourite players.
Lincoln says if his fundraiser did grab their attention it would be a pretty cool accomplishment.
“It would mean the world to me," he says.