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Successful fundraiser for teacher

When life hands you lemons... Make lemonade: That’s what Will Cymbaluk did to help his sick teacher. DL NEWSPAPERS/Paula Quam

Detroit Lakes kindergartener Will Cymbaluk and his team of helpers wrapped up the now famous lemonade stand and silent auction that he held for his teacher, who is going through cancer treatments in Rochester.

Little Will manned the stand Tuesday and Thursday at Rossman Elementary School, where his teacher, Colleen Knoop, first helped him come out of his shy, little shell.

The event, which has garnered a lot of media attention, was essentially slapped together by Will and his family in two weeks to be held during parent-teacher conferences.

But a lot can happen in two weeks when word gets out about a little boy wanting to help his teacher.

Although Will and his parents, Mandy and Chris, are still busy trying to add up monetary donations from the lemonade stand and bake sale, the amount received from the 125 donated silent auction items, and the checks that have been coming in the mail, they do know it’s much more than they ever expected.

“It’s twice as much as I thought,” said Mandy Cymbaluk. “It’s been a steady flow of people; the majority of the stuff at the silent auction has been up over what the value is.”

And at the lemonade stand, it was rare to hear the kind of free will donation that clinks, as the quiet paper dollars with two-digit numbers were continually being slipped into the jar.

20s, 50s, 100s and more.

The biggest bill Will saw dropped into his jar?

“$1,000,” he said, with a big smile, as his mom clarified that it was a check they got Tuesday.

“A couple came in and quietly dropped that check into his jar and then quietly left … didn’t even need any lemonade,” said Cymbaluk.

And as Will and his helpers at the stand went through dozens of gallons of sweet lemonade, his older sister, Elle, sat only a few feet away with her own crew of volunteers and a table full of donated goodies.

“Somebody came in today and put a $400 check into our jar and he only wanted one brownie,” said Elle, who says they were down to literally two or three cookies Tuesday.

But thanks again to a sea of unnamed volunteers from the community, Elle came in Thursday to a whole new pile of baked goods that people had dropped off for the sale.

In Elle’s eyes, those good deeds are all being done for a very good teacher.

“I had her for kindergarten, too, and she was like a second mom to me,” said Elle. “She made me actually want to come to school.”

Donations for the silent auction continued trickling in Wednesday, as Will took one look at all the items that had been bid on and figured they needed a few more.

“He said, ‘mom, do you think we could go out and get some more for Mrs. Knoop?’ And so Wednesday after school we went around and picked up a few more donations,” said Mandy Cymbaluk.

As for Will, his heart and his lemonade have earned him a little bit of celebrity.

“Some lady asked for his autograph at Walmart the other day,” laughed Cymbaluk, who says Will doesn’t really understand the hype behind it all, but knows he’s helping his teacher just when she needs it the most.

And because donations are still coming in through the mail, the Cymbaluks have set up an account for Colleen Knoop at Bremer Bank in Detroit Lakes.

“It’s been shocking,” said Cymbaluk, “I just cannot believe how generous people have been, and I know that Will hopes all this will really make Mrs. Knoop happy.”