11-year-old Madison Root knows that braces are expensive, so she wanted to do her part to help pay for the cost. Sure, she could sell lemonade at the end of the driveway — but with her uncle’s farm overflowing with mistletoe and Christmas right around the corner, why not sell that at Portland, Ore.’s popular Saturday Market instead?
Well — because the city says so.
The girl had gathered enough mistletoe from her uncle’s farm for 100 nicely-prepared bags of mistletoe for customers, KATU-TV reported, and brought it to the Saturday Market last weekend with her father. She thought the location was perfect — a public area overflowing with patrons, vendors, booths, beggars and more.
But Root and her father were soon asked by a security guard to stop selling their wares because city ordinance bans such commerce without proper approval. The guard reportedly added that she could continue on the sidewalk outside or beg for donations instead.
Mark Ross, a spokesman for the Portland Parks Bureau, said begging is a protected form of free speech.
“It’s crazy!” Root told KATU-TV of the outcome. “People can get money for pot, but I can’t get money for braces? I’m working for this! They’re just sitting down on their butts all day asking for pot!”
The young woman says she has no interest in begging, and “would rather work for something.”
Her father, Ashton Root, said that while they understand the rules — vendors compete and pay for prime locations — it seems like “the city laws are supporting begging and are against working.” He said he hopes their story can “make a statement and possibly make a difference.”
But all is not lost for young Madison Root, who is already finding customers elsewhere and has even set up her own website. After her story made the local news, customers began calling in orders for dozens of packages of mistletoe. Business owner Ken Cook of McKenzie Farms even donated $1,000 to her braces fund.
“This girl is what America is all about,” Cook said of the “little entrepreneur.”
Thanks to the outpouring of support, Root has already gotten her top row of braces.
Speaking from the orthodontist’s office, she said with a smile: “It’s just awesome; I feel that we can get people to stop begging and start working … People should be able to work for money. People should be able to try hard to make a living!”
Watch below for a follow-up interview with Cook, and Root expressing her thanks from the orthodontist’s office:
This post has been updated to include information about Madison Root’s website.
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