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Denver family helps change lemonade stand rules

Brothers Ben, William, and Jonathan Guffey helped change how kids can run lemonade stands in Denver.

It was a big summer for the Guffey boys.

Brothers Ben, William and Jonathan Guffey became experts in making lemonade. The 7-year old, 4-year old, and 2-year old also pushed for a new Denver ordinance that allows other local kids to legally host a lemonade stand in their neighborhood.

The Guffey boys first made news earlier this summer, when they set up a lemonade stand at park near their home in Stapleton. Police shut that stand down, saying someone complained. The boys didn't have a permit and didn't know they needed one. Other vendors with permits were selling nearby.

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“We were trying to raise enough money to sponsor a 5-year-old boy living in extreme poverty in Indonesia,” said the lemonade boys’ mom, Jennifer Knowles.

“I had no idea that lemonade stands had been illegal in Denver and we had learned that we needed multiple permits. And after that happened we just kind of scratched our heads and it didn’t seem right to us, it didn’t sit well,” she said.

The family teamed up with city leaders to make a change.

Knowles and her boys spoke before the City Council, as city leaders considered a bill to change the permit rule. The family also started an online fundraising campaign to support the charity they initially wanted to help, Compassion International. They spoke to both local and national news outlets, hosted more lemonade stands, and even inspired others.

“We were all surprised by the attention it’s gotten, but it’s been good attention,” she said. “And there’s been incredible community support and its ultimately resulted in positive change.”

Last week, Denver city leaders passed a new ordinance that lets kids under age 17 sell lemonade without permits. The bill allows a children’s beverage stand to be operated in a residential neighborhood, and at least 200 feet away from any other vendor selling drinks.

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A spokesperson for Mayor Michael Hancock said he signed the bill, and the new rules are effective immediately.

Initially, Knowles hoped to teach her boys about charity and entrepreneurship. By the end of the summer, they learned much more.

“They’ve learned how to take a stand. They’ve learned how to be in front of a camera, they’ve learned how to be vocal and also to stand up for what you believe in,” she said. “What happened with us didn’t seem right, so we worked with the community and we ultimately made a change that will not only help my boys and future lemonade stands with my boys, but kids across Denver.”

Knowles said the fundraising efforts also exceeded expectations, and that so far more than $8,000 has been raised for Compassion International. The family isn’t done yet. Knowles said she is also working with a state lawmaker to draft similar legislation on the state level.

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