A 7-year-old boy is going viral in a community northwest of Austin after he set up a hot chocolate stand to raise money for President Donald Trump’s border wall.
Jennifer Stevens says it all began when her son, Benton, watched Trump’s State of the Union Address on Feb. 5.
“He wanted to know about the wall so we explained what it was about and he (Benton) was like ‘I want to raise money for the wall,’” she said.
Both she and her husband Shane are politically active members of the Republican National Committee, she says, and they like to keep their children aware of their political stance.
“People think he’s brainwashed,” she said. “Well, of course, he supports Trump because we do, and he hears how we talk and this and that. Call that brainwashing, but I call it parenting, because we instill our values in him.”
Stevens says Benton begged her to let him set up a stand to help raise money for the border wall. His older brothers helped him make the signs and Stevens helped him make the hot chocolate.
On Saturday, Benton set up his stand at a Steiner Ranch strip mall for an hour. Stevens says in that time, he made $231 in sales. But, not everyone was appreciative of the family’s efforts.
“I guess some liberals – or whatever you want to call them – they were griping at the owner (of the store) and going in and yelling at him and slamming him on Facebook,” she said. While the stand wasn’t on the store’s property, according to Stevens, her husband decided to close it down that day. KXAN reached out to the owner of the store, but he declined to comment.
In the hour that Benton was selling hot chocolate, Stevens says someone posted a picture of him and his stand in several Facebook pages and the issue took off.
“It seems like there are more people supporting it than against it but the people that are against it keep going and going and going.”
While some slammed them for using their son to make political statements, others applauded them. One donor matched the money he raised on Saturday. When the Stevens’ told Benton about the mixed reactions, Jennifer says it “fired him up,” and so they set up the stand on Sunday as well.
Once again, the reactions were polarized.
“He was called a little Hitler yesterday,” Stevens said. “A guy pointed at him in his car and then he said that we didn’t like brown people. I don’t understand that at all.”
Online, Stevens says she and her husband were criticized for their actions, but she said, “that’s the price you pay when you make a political stance.”
In total, between sales and donations that have poured in through Venmo, Stevens says Benton raised about $1,400 and so far he seems unfazed by the negative attention he has received.
“We’re going to get it into the wall,” she said of their plans for the money. “There’s a GoFundMe page and we’re also part of the RNC and we’re pretty connected there so we will 100 percent make sure it goes towards the wall.”
According to a report from Business Insider, making sure money goes directly to a certain project with the federal government can get complicated. Donations to the government go to a fund called “Gifts to the United States” but there is not a way to guarantee that money goes toward a specific project. Donating money to the Department of Homeland Security would require Congressional approval, according to a 2008 policy directive.