The officer noticed her staring back at him as he approached her. She was petrified. She didn’t know why she had caught his attention. To make things worse, her family wasn’t home. They’d gone out to for a bit. But somehow, he found them. Suddenly, he made a sharp turn and opened his patrol car’s door. Then he leaned in to grab something from the seat. What was going on? She wondered. He shut the door and continued walking towards her. Then, it all made some strange kind of sense. But she still wasn’t sure how to handle this situation.
Melissa Garcar wasn’t comfortable around cops. As a child, she noticed the way her parents would stiffen up whenever an officer of the law was around. Eventually, she met a guy who felt the same way she did. They eventually moved in together in Lake County, Ohio, with their two kids. The crime rate was low, which meant the neighborhoods were safe. Education was affordable too. Melissa avoided interacting with cops. But she didn’t expect her 9-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, to change all of that. Gabrielle had asked her parents to get her a gaming tablet for quite a while now, but the family was on a budget. Fortunately, Gabrielle came up with the perfect solution to earn some money.
Gabrielle decided to create a lemonade stand, the way most kids her age do. Her parents thought it was a great way for her to earn the money she needed. Plus, it would teach her the value of money while keeping her busy for a couple of hours too. Gabrielle was charming and smart. Melissa was confident that her daughter would make some money. But there was one major issue. They were living in a rural area, and there weren’t any pedestrians. Melissa was afraid that her daughter would end up disappointed. So, she did what any mother would do. She took matters into her own hands, and together, they came up with a great idea.
There was one person in the family tree who lived in a livelier neighborhood… Gabrielle’s grandmother. Her condo was the perfect venue to put a lemonade stand. People often parked in this area before heading out into town. The stand would be in an area where there was plenty of foot traffic. And Gabrielle didn’t need a lot of help. She made her own signs, borrowed some tablecloths, and grabbed some cups. She also knew how to make lemonade because she’d done it hundreds of times for her mom. Before long, word of Gabrielle’s lemonade stand spread like wildfire. Eventually, she was rushing to wash dirty cups at her grandmother’s condo. But when she came back to the lemonade stand, she noticed a parked car outside.
The red and blue lights flashed and an officer stepped out of his patrol vehicle to greet the nearby residents. Then he headed straight for Gabrielle’s lemonade stand. Meanwhile, Melissa watched from the door. Were they in trouble? Did they need a permit for this? He gave her daughter a smile and asked, “How much are you charging today, Miss?” Gabrielle grinned and replied, “Fifty cents.” Like a typical business person, the little girl didn’t give out any discounts. This made Melissa laugh. The cop gave her $3 and told her he’d let others know about the lemonade stand. Gabrielle graciously accepted the free advertisement. But she didn’t realize it would have such huge results.
Eventually, another cop car pulled up to Gabrielle’s lemonade stand. Before he exited his car, the little girl ran up to him, and got on her tip-toes to speak to the officer through his window. “Would you like to buy some lemonade?” 22-year-old officer Zak Ropos got out of his vehicle and walked over to the stand. He was so surprised by her level of maturity. “I asked her what she wanted to do with the money,” shared Ropos. “She said she’d get an iPad to help with school and to play games.” Gabrielle’s work ethic and positive attitude impressed Ropos and every other customer she had. It’s why the officer decided to give her a helping hand too.
As the line grew, Ropos stepped aside and decided to talk to Gabrielle’s mom, Melissa. He complimented the little girl, and then he offered her an old iPad he had at home. “I knew her lemonade stand wasn’t probably going to bring in enough money for a tablet, but seeing that she was willing to work for what she wanted, I was willing to help her,” he explained. Melissa was grateful. She wasn’t looking forward to telling her daughter that her hard work wouldn’t pay off. But Ropos’ gift would save the day. So Ropos went home to find his iPad. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t turn on. Now he had no choice but to drive back to the lemonade stand and give Melissa the bad news.
Before Ropos could speak to Melissa, Gabrielle went up to the curb and started chatting with him. “How did your lemonade sale go?” Gabrielle’s happiness was contagious. He couldn’t help but smile as she hopped excitedly and said, “Well, I made a few dollars but Mommy’s gas tank was empty so I gave the money to her.” Ropos was stunned. How was this kid so selfless? She wanted a tablet so badly. So why did she give her money up so easily? “That just made me melt,” he said. He couldn’t just leave without giving Gabrielle what she deserved.
Everything went back to normal the following day. Gabrielle’s brother went off to football practice, and the whole family showed up to offer their support. But as the crowd continued cheering, Gabrielle saw a patrol car. She waved at it, assuming she served the officer inside the vehicle. But when the car pulled up, and the officer stepped out, she was stunned. It was Officer Ropos! She climbed down the bleachers and ran towards him just as he reached into his vehicle. He grabbed a sparkling pink bag, which made Gabrielle’s heart sink.
Ropos couldn’t give Gabrielle his old iPad, so he went out and bought her a brand new one. “When she told me she gave the money to her mom… that’s when I almost started crying because of how great of a kid she really was,” he shared. He was so impressed by the little girl’s generosity. “People helped me out in my life, so it was kind of like a pay-it-forward type of thing.” Ropos was happy to take money out of his own pocket to make the little girl happy. And Gabrielle couldn’t contain her overwhelming joy.
“The kindness of people — it gets me every single time,” said Melissa. She had never had such an amazing experience with an officer of the law, but was deeply humbled by his selfless act. But her own daughter’s generosity has touched her frequently over the years. “She’s got a huge heart,” said Melissa. And Officer Ropos, and everyone’s who has ever met her would agree. Ropos wanted to reward Gabrielle’s hard work. He also wanted her to know that he appreciated her determination.
“I talked to the little girl, gave her a speech about how courageous and admirable I think her efforts were to save up her money,” said Ropos. Melissa was bawling as she snapped a quick photo of the officer along with her daughter, who was holding on to her precious gift. The Sheriff’s Department decided to share what their deputy had done on their Facebook page. But they were shocked by the reaction they got.
The post immediately gained lots of attention. In fact, the story was shared more than 34,000 times by Lake County residents and strangers. Everyone was stunned by Ropo’s kindness, and they posted 10,000 comments, that praised the cop. In fact, Melissa and Ropos were contacted a bunch of times, but Ropos declined most of the interviews. He was simply shocked by the way the media took interest in such a simple gesture. Why was everyone paying this much attention to what he did?
“I really didn’t want all the media attention,” said Ropos. “I just wanted to see the smile on a little girl’s face, and that was worth a million dollars to me, so that’s why I did it.” Ropos totally made Gabrielle’s day. But he only did it out of kindness. He never intended to get praised for it. Then he decided to push all the attention on the whole police force, explaining that he was neither the first nor the last cop in their department to help out folks in the community.
Ropos went on to explain that a couple of months prior to this, his lieutenant gave $200 to a family who needed it. Two other officers bought a young boy a bike after they saw that he was struggling to get to his soccer practice. Ropos didn’t want to be seen as the only good cop in his department. “That’s how it is at Lake County. Everyone is caring here. We all give out shift off our back for people.” But despite his words, his community still thinks he’s in a class of his own, particularly Gabrielle.