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Sweet recognition for Evergreen boys

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Two youths honored by sheriff for providing lemonade to responders during Bluebell Fire

By Stephanie DeCamp

The Bluebell Fire that started June 3 in Evergreen saw first responders working around the clock to keep the flames at bay, and to their surprise — amid all the chaos and danger — a lemonade stand appeared nearby to quench their thirsts.

Rhys Hanson and Bryce Elder, both 11, were presented the Citizen Commendation Award last Thursday at the Jefferson County Courts and Administration Building. Sheriff Ted Mink, who made the presentations, later said the lemonade stand “exemplified compassion for what the first responders were facing … and it was incredible.”

“We were really thankful that the firefighters saved our house,” Rhys said, “so we decided to give them a thank-you. We were evacuated, and I was really worried. I was just thinking, ‘What’s going to go on?’ The firefighters were 4,000 feet from our back door, so I was really scared.”

“We weren’t allowed to go up to my house yet,” Bryce said, “so we stayed at our friends’ house and decided to do the lemonade stand. Our moms went to get some stuff, and we made a sign that said, ‘Free snacks and cold drinks,’ and then we gave out lemonade, cookies, granola bars and candied nuts.”

The boys said they could smell smoke from the fire as they provided lemonade, water and treats to the firefighters.

“The firefighters and police were thankful we were doing that,” Bryce said of the stand. “Two different trucks stopped and gave us a dollar, and we were going to give that money to helping fire victims. Luckily, no one lost their homes, so it went to the firefighters so they can help during other fires.”

The firefighters had consumed all of their water, Rhys said, so were delighted to see the water bottles, lemonade and cookies the boys were handing out.

“We are so proud of our boys,” said Melody Elder, Bryce’s mom. “They just did a remarkable job. We’re so proud they wanted to do it in the first place, and they were out there a long time — for hours. What better way to teach your children responsibility in the community? And to say thank-you to the people taking care of you, the first responders?”

Mink said the boys were highly deserving of the recognition.

“They came in suits and ties and chests puffed out,” he said of the awards ceremony. “They were very, very proud. Very often we don’t recognize the efforts of young people, and their support of the sheriff and fire activities. And we thought that this is an outstanding thing they did, to show their appreciation of (the first responders) by giving them everything they could. And that happened to be lemonade and cookies.”

At the ceremony, the sheriff told the boys’ story before he gave them their awards.

“It was really cool,” Rhys said. “I was a little nervous, but just a little.”

“I didn’t know I would get it,” Bryce said. “I just thought I would sit back and be nominated and watch other people get it. … That made me really, really happy, that I was getting the award with Rhys.”

And where is that award now?

“At the moment, I have it up on the piano. And my mom is getting me a special frame for it. It’s a certificate award. A lot of people just got the certificate, but we got actual medals.”