Thief steals 9-year-old twins' lemonade stand tip jar so police and community step in

Karen Smidt tells Fox News that first responders stepped up to restore her children’s faith when their tip jar was stolen

A police force and neighborhood turned a sour moment into a sweet opportunity for two young entrepreneurs.

Twins Katelyn and Elias Smidt, 9, were running their lemonade stand as usual on Monday, but their beverage operation was interrupted when an unknown passerby reportedly stopped her car and grabbed their tip jar before she fled the scene.

The Smidt family called the Ames Police Department in Iowa to report the theft, but they had no idea local officers and their community would rally to help Katelyn and Elias make up the loss.

Behind the scenes, Ames Officer Celena Rohland notified colleagues and fellow first responders about the stolen tip jar.

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In less than 24 hours, several officers and firefighters stopped by the lemonade stand to order a few fresh cups. 

"This theft was particularly heartbreaking for Katelyn and Elias and I wanted to turn their experience into something positive," Officer Rohland told Fox News. "I work with a great group of people who didn't hesitate to come together to make that happen."

Several first responders rallied behind Katelyn and Elias Smidt, 9, after they heard someone stole the duo's tip jar from their lemonade stand. The pair's mother, Karen Smidt, credits Ames Officer Celena Rohland for spreading the word.

Several first responders rallied behind Katelyn and Elias Smidt, 9, after they heard someone stole the duo's tip jar from their lemonade stand. The pair's mother, Karen Smidt, credits Ames Officer Celena Rohland for spreading the word. (Karen Smidt)

"Officer Rohland and the first responders of our community changed the tides when they showed up to show their support after the robbery," Katelyn and Elias’ mother Karen Smidt told Fox News. "Our kids went from scared and unsure how to trust the next person…to wide-eyed, smiling and so excited to serve them lemonade." 

According to Smidt, many of the first responders who stopped by the stand came from the Ames Police Department, Iowa State University Police Department, Story County Sheriff's Office and Ames Fire Department.

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"Our street was filled with police cars and firetrucks and a whole lot of smiles," she said. "Because of those first responders, our kids found a renewed sense of energy and wanted to open their stand the next day…and the next day. Our community showed up in a big way and we are and continue to be overwhelmed by the support."

An investigation into the theft is still in progress, according to Smidt.

Karen Smidt tells Fox News her children learned a valuable lesson about moving forward in the face of adversity.

Karen Smidt tells Fox News her children learned a valuable lesson about moving forward in the face of adversity. (Karen Smidt)

"Life is never without hard parts," Smidt said. "The way our community has showed up has absolutely given our kids something they will remember for a lifetime."

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The generous tips Katelyn and Elias have made will be donated to Shop with a Cop, Smidt told Fox News. The local program is dedicated to making "holidays brighter for disadvantaged families," according to the Ames Police Foundation. 

Smidt added that she’s grateful her children have been able to learn that "good can come despite adversity if you choose to continue putting one foot in front of the other."

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She went on, "This community has shown so many what it looks and feels like to really come together."

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