Fact Check

Did a Boy Raise $32K for St. Jude from Sturgis Lemonade Stand?

A viral Facebook post told the story of a young boy who raised tens of thousands of dollars and got his picture with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem.

Published Sep 21, 2022

STURGIS, SOUTH DAKOTA - AUGUST 09: Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota arrives at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground after riding in the Legends Ride for charity on a 2021 Indian Chief on August 09, 2021 near Sturgis, South Dakota. Each August hundreds of thousands of motorcycling enthusiast come to the southwest corner of South Dakota for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. This year the rally is expect to draw more than 500,00 people during its 10-day run. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Image Via Scott Olson/Getty Images
Claim:
A young boy raised $32,600 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital from donations received at his lemonade stand near the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
Context

This was a real story from 2021. In fact, according to the Rapid City Journal, the 8-year-old boy, whose name was Wyatt Dennis, raised a total of $62,000. He allocated $32,600 of the funds for St. Jude and planned to spend the remaining funds on college and a dirt bike.

On Sept. 5, 2022, a Facebook user shared a screenshot that told a true story from the year 2021 about a young boy who raised $32,600 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The screenshot showed a picture of then-8-year-old Wyatt Dennis posing next to Gov. Kristi Noem, R-SD. Dennis was able to raise the funds thanks to his donation-based lemonade stand, which was situated near the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

According to the St. Jude website, the hospital is known around the world as being a leader in the treatment of "the toughest childhood cancers and pediatric diseases."

The screenshot in the post showed a prior post from Aug. 26, 2021. As of the publishing of this fact check, the original post had received more than 334,000 shares.

The viral post read as follows:

This young man was giving lemonade away, for donations, this yr. at Sturgis, for Saint Jude, he collected $32,600.00, the lady in the pic is the South Dakota gov. I wonder if the news will cover what this fine young man has done...p.s. I bet his parents are proud folks! We need to flood facebook with this!

The Facebook post left out one key detail that perhaps made the story even better.

According to the Rapid City Journal, in 2021, Dennis raised a total of $62,000 from donations at his lemonade stand. He allocated $32,600 for St. Jude and said he wanted to split the remaining funds between a dirt bike and his future college tuition.

Wyatt's father, Devin, told the newspaper that the success of his son's efforts appeared to be in no small part thanks to early promotion on Facebook:

[In 2020], Wyatt raised about $700 from the stand, which was more than enough to purchase a rocket Lego set. He donated a portion of it to St. Jude last year, too.

...

A post about Wyatt’s lemonade stand made it to Facebook a little before the rally began [in 2021]. At one point, it was shared 64,000 times.

Black Hills Riders donated a mini bike for Wyatt, which is his first motorized bike. Devin said they’re waiting for the dirt bikes to get back in stock, so he hasn’t received the one he wants quite yet.

Noem tweeted about meeting the Dennis family and posted several pictures from the moment she stopped by the lemonade stand, all of which appeared to have occurred around Aug. 9, 2021:

In sum, yes, it was true that a young boy was able to raise $62,000 from his donation-based lemonade stand, $32,600 of which was later donated by his family to St. Jude.

Note: The Dennis family raised $21,000 during their efforts in Sturgis in 2022, according to a Facebook post and TikTok video.

Sources

Bonnet, Siandhara. “8-Year-Old’s Rally Lemonade Stand Success Leads to $32K Donation.” Rapid City Journal, 26 Aug. 2021, https://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/8-year-olds-rally-lemonade-stand-success-leads-to-32k-donation/article_8b0069a2-9865-5a78-b0b7-41c7ccb7f78b.html.

Bradley, Bryan. “This Young Man Was Giving Lemonade Away...” Facebook, 26 Aug. 2021, https://www.facebook.com/bryan.bradley.568/.

Groves, Stephen. “South Dakota’s Sturgis Rally Roars Back as Delta Rising.” AP News, 6 Aug. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/lifestyle-health-coronavirus-pandemic-south-dakota-sd-state-wire-b729c1e92cb7e0f74c12343c483f9474.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. https://www.stjude.org/.

Jordan Liles is a Snopes reporter with expertise in investigating misinformation, inauthentic social media activity, and scams.

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