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AMES, Iowa – What began as a sour episode had a sweet ending for 9-year-old twins from Iowa.

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A thief stole the tip jar from the lemonade stand run by siblings Katelyn Smidt and Elias Smidt in Ames on Monday afternoon, the Ames Tribune reported.

The lemonade was free, but several customers left money in the tip jar, the newspaper reported. The twins had collected between $50 and $100 when disaster struck, according to their mother, Karen Smidt, who had gone back into the family’s home to make more lemonade.

“It was just like this split-second situation where all of a sudden, this car drove up, and my daughter asked her if she wanted lemonade, and she said yes,” Smidt told the Tribune. “And so, Katelyn was ready to serve her lemonade, and she grabbed the tip jar and got in the car and squealed off.”

Stunned by the brazen theft, the family called the police. The officers’ response was surprisingly sweet, spearheaded by Ames police Officer Celena Rohland.

“I started messaging some of the people that I work with asking them to get together and maybe visit the lemonade stand so we could make a difference in Katelyn and Elias’ day,” Rohland told KCCI.

Rohland contacted four different law enforcement agencies, and when the twins reopened their stand they had a steady stream of customers from the Ames police and fire departments, Iowa State University police and the Story County Sheriff’s Office, WOI-TV reported.

“They could’ve very easily shut that lemonade stand down because they were scared, and they chose to keep it open to keep serving people,” Karen Smidt told the television station. “And then to see 18 people walk up, they were so excited to just get the lemonade rolling and get it served.

“It was amazing, like, their support and just taking these kids’ emotional state to a whole new level. It was phenomenal.”

The Smidt family decided to donate all tips received to Shop with a Cop, the Tribune reported. The event is sponsored annually by the Ames Police Foundation; children and officers shop together at a Target store.

“Our experience has been amazing, and we really just want it to be multiplied,” Karen Smidt told the newspaper. “We want more people to have that same experience with cops.”

The twins have raised more than $2,400 between in-person tips and donations to Karen Smidt’s Venmo account, @karen-smidt-1.

“It chokes me up to see these kids as happy as they are right now,” Kyle Dirks, who works with garbage collection agency Aspen Waste, told KCCI. “That’s what it’s about. Taking care of our community.”