Uplifted by the support they received, the teens reopened their stand just four days after the robbery.
Two teenage boys are receiving a torrent of love and support from their Illinois community after their lemonade stand was robbed at gunpoint earlier this month. 13-year-old Jude and Tristan were selling lemonade in Peoria on August 7 when they were approached by two men — one of whom was holding a gun — Officer Amy Dotson of the Peoria Police Department told CNN. The men stole the teens' cash box, which contained around $30, and fled on foot while the boys watched in horror and shock. Although the incident initially left the teenagers and their families questioning their safety in the neighborhood, their fears were soon washed away by the overwhelming support they've received from their community.
"The boys were just shocked, they couldn't process what was happening until it was over," said Jude's father, Nathan Peterson. "I got a call from [the] police saying, ''Hey, your kids are OK, but they just got robbed.' I almost blacked out, I was just so scared I was trying to get there as fast as possible." Upon arriving at the scene, Peterson was stunned to see the boys' lemonade stand surrounded by police officers, all of whom were buying cups of lemonade and "paying maybe $20 each for it," in an attempt to make the kids feel safe again, he revealed.
"I was relieved," the grateful father added. "They created a very protective environment for the boys. This situation could have ended so badly, but somehow they helped turn what could have been a horrible experience into something beautiful." What Jude and Tristan didn't know at the time was that the friendly gesture from the police was just the beginning of the heartwarming surprises coming their way in the following days.
As news of the incident spread through Peoria, neighbors, friends, and even strangers rallied together to help the boys feel safe and valued in the community. Hoping to encourage the teens not to give up, donations started pouring in through Facebook fundraisers and PayPal donations in their name, raising more than $3,500 in just a matter of days. "There was so much love poured out on them so fast after the incident, and so much of it for so many days in a row, that their main experience from this incident has been of love and support," said Peterson.
"The intent of this money comes from a deeper place, just wanting to live in a world that's safe for a 13-year-old to have a lemonade stand. We wanted to show love back to the community and thought the best way to do that is for the boys to continue their stand so the community can see that yes, what you did made a difference," he added. Uplifted by the support they received, Jude and Tristan reopened their stand just four days after the robbery. Their reopening was also made an incredibly successful event as dozens of people came by, buying lemonade, and sharing kind words with the boys.
The most heartening moment of the day was when a parade of police vehicles came by to raise the teens' spirits. "A police armadillo truck (a modified armored car) followed by about 15 police cars all with their lights on paraded in front of their stand and parked on the side street. I'm getting teary-eyed just talking about it," Peterson said. "The officers and police chief got out of their cars and talked to the boys and told them how much they supported them. They gave them a donation and took turns buying lemonade. It just made them feel so safe and encouraged."
"The robbery itself felt surreal. But the response from the police and community made me so happy," said Tristan. "I think there will be less robberies in Peoria because of the way we celebrate the good and are proactive about correcting the bad. Everyone's generosity and support makes me determined to also give generosity and support to others." According to police, the robbery is still under investigation and no arrests have been made yet.