TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. - After his neighbors lost everything in a house fire, 8-year-old Owen from Tunkhannock, Penn., decided to set up a lemonade stand and raise money for the victims.
However, after hours of serving lemonade outside his house, the money Owen raised was stolen.
Owen’s family was having a yard sale last weekend ahead of their big move to Colorado, and he asked his mom, Olivia St. Clair, if he could set up the stand. St. Clair was so touched by Owen’s determination to help their neighbors that she agreed.
She says Owen set up the stand himself.
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“He had three sizes of cups, different kinds of lemonade, a little sign,” she said.
St. Clair says Owen kept an eye on the monetary donations throughout the day. But in a moment when he accidentally dropped the bag of donations, someone took it.
“About an hour before we were closing, and in a split second, the money was taken,” St. Clair said. “He was very vigilant with that money all day. It had fallen out, and he went to put it in his pocket, and somebody must have been watching him, and they just snatched it.”
She said Owen realized within a minute the money was gone. He was devastated. Realizing what had happened, a man gave Owen a $20 donation.
“That was the first random act of kindness,” St. Clair said.
Photos: Community helps 8-year-old boy after fundraiser donations stolen
St. Clair and Owen’s grandmother shared his heartbreaking story on Facebook, which garnered sympathy and support from the community. Within an hour after those Facebook posts, St. Clair says two police officers showed up at their house to offer words of encouragement. One took money out of his own pocket and gave it to Owen.
Other people in the community came by to offer support, many of whom St. Clair says she’d never met.
“(A couple who) knew the family came to give us money. People came to say encouraging words to show (Owen) one bad person does not define anyone,” St. Clair said. “It made Owen bounce back and be determined.”
When police learned about Owen’s desire to help his neighbors – and his hope of one day becoming a law enforcement officer – they showed up to help in a big way.
Officers from several Pennsylvania police departments in more than 20 squad cars greeted Owen outside his house. They gave him a donation, thanked him for his outstanding citizenship and even let him wear the “big hat!”
St. Clair says seeing the support from the troopers and the community lifted Owen’s spirits and made priceless, unforgettable memories.
“I’m speechless at Owen’s actions, at the community, everyone all over the country contacting us just offering encouraging words,” St. Clair said.
Owen plans to set up a lemonade stand again this weekend. St. Clair says people have already made preorders for lemonade and, in addition to monetary donations, have offered to provide supplies.
If you’d like to help the fire victims, a fund is set up at the Wells Fargo bank, 12 E Tioga Street in Tunkhannock, Pa., 18657. Checks can be made out to the Seymore Family Fund.