Boy, 9, sets up lemonade stand to raise money for cancer in honor of late father

With the help of his community, Joey Geist, 9, set up 'Joey's Juices' as a fundraising effort to beat cancer to honor his firefighter father who died earlier this year

By Daniel Patrick Sheehan
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Even as his firefighter father was dying of cancer, 9-year-old Joey Geist was dreaming up ways to raise money to beat that disease, so nobody else would have to deal with its ravaging ways. His first idea was to sell his set of Pokemon cards for $100, and when he explained this to his grief counselor, she held back the tears until she returned to her office, whereupon she wept for 10 minutes.

“He’s got a huge heart, this kid," said the counselor, Kathleen Bohannon, who works for Bayada Hospice and spent months helping to steady the Geist children and their mother, Cynthia, as Michael Geist succumbed to brain cancer.

The Moore Township man died Feb. 22. He was 32. Still deep in grief, his survivors gathered with friends Thursday outside the American Cancer Society office in Hanover Township, Northampton County to watch Joey present a donation of $601.18.

After that, the cheery fourth-grader stood behind a specially made lemonade stand — it looks like a firetruck, with short ladders on each side and red lights on top — and sold lemonade to office park workers, who threw money into a firefighter’s boot worn by Lt. Michael Geist during countless emergency responses with the Bushkill Township Fire Department over eight years.

The lemonade was only $1, but plenty of larger denominations found their way into the boot as Joey and his siblings, 7-year-old Zachary and 5-year-old Isabella, filled blue Solo cups.

“This is my favorite thing,” Joey said, taking a short break from the stand. “I’ve always loved to help people.”

Credit for that worldview goes to his parents and to the Cub Scouts, which Joey joined in first grade. He recited the scout’s creed about being loyal, trustworthy, helpful and courteous — qualities, everyone agreed, that Joey has in abundance.

“He’s a remarkable little guy,” Cynthia Geist said.

Joey, incidentally, held on to his Pokemon cards after Bohannon suggested finding another way to raise money. Most of Thursday’s donation came from the pockets of Bayada staff, who stepped in to give Joey an initial boost until his lemonade sales got underway.

Bohannon said Jonathan Sullivan, carpentry teacher at the Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School, led the volunteer effort to build the stand, which is labeled “Joey’s Juices” and bears the number of Michael Geist’s fire station: 5235.

Joey's Juices: Finding Purpose After Tragedy

I couldn't imagine losing one of my parents when I was 9 years old, but that's the reality for Joey Geist. His dad, Bushkill Township Volunteer Fire Company Fire Warden Lt. Mike Geist, lost his battle with brain cancer in February. Joey has been raising money for American Cancer Society - Berks, Lehigh, Northampton Counties for months, selling lemonade as part of "Joey's Juices 5235." Thanks to the Geist family, Tracy Yatsko PBS39, ACS, and BAYADA Home Health Care for sharing this inspiring story with PBS39:

Posted by Stephen Jiwanmall on Friday, July 19, 2019

Joey, who plans to set the stand up in different spots this summer to keep the donations coming, wore a gray T-shirt with his father’s name and a legend on the back: “Pennsylvania Dutch Stubborn.”

This turned out to be Michael Geist’s own self-assessment of his never-quit personality, and it’s clear his elder son inherited that gene.

“He would keep trying until he always got it right,” Joey said, “and that’s what I’m going to do."


©2019 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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