AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a very polarized few days, a Steiner Ranch family says tides are turning for a little boy who sold hot chocolate to raise money for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.
Benton Stevens’ parent told KXAN people from both sides of the aisle have reached out in support of their son and in some cases, people who initially criticized the family even apologized.
“Amazing things are happening in our community,” Jennifer Stevens said. “People who were originally very mean have started apologizing for what they said and sticking up for Benton.”
Tongues wagged after the little boy set up the stand over the weekend at a Steiner Ranch shopping center. A picture of him with his stand was posted on social media and a flood of comments ensued either in support or against the boy and his parents’ political leanings.
The Stevens said someone called their son “a little Hitler” to his face and said that he “didn’t like brown people.”
“I didn’t think that they would do that towards a seven-year-old, I figured it would just be directed towards me and Jen,” said Shane Stevens, Benton’s dad.
Benton is now “thinking about doing a free hot chocolate stand for people from both sides of the debate since there are so many people sticking up for him.”
Donations have also poured in since their son’s efforts went viral and the boy has now collected nearly $6,000 through people who came out to buy hot chocolate and also from people around the country who have been sending money to his Venmo account.
Those reaching out include the creators of the “We The People Will Build the Wall” gofundme, which had raised more than $20 million, to invite the family to Washington, D.C.
“They asked if he could come up maybe at the end of the month and take a visit, meet some interesting people, see some really cool things,” Shane Stevens said.
However, not everyone agrees with the Stevens’ political views or their choice to allow a 7-year-old to make such a strong political statement. The comments pouring into stories about the boy remain highly divided.
Some commenters on KXAN’s previous story suggested he give the earnings to a different cause like a children’s hospital or to a local animal shelter. Many felt that allowing a child to be exposed to a highly politicized debate was inappropriate while others still cheered the 7-year-old on for standing up for what he believes in.
After the family originally said the money would “100%” go toward the wall, it’s now changing its tune. Shane Stevens admits there’s no guarantee the money will actually pay for the wall if he follows through with a plan to donate the money to the federal government or the “We The People Will Build the Wall” gofundme.
A report from Business Insider revealed that trying to ensure money goes directly to a specific federal project can be a complicated matter. Donations to the government go into a fund called “Gifts to the United States,” but there is no way to guarantee that that money will go to the intended project. Donating money to the Department of Homeland Security would require Congressional approval, according to a 2008 policy directive.