(CNN) — Most kids who set up lemonade stands hope to earn enough for an ice cream or maybe a new bike. But young Tristan has a loftier goal: He wants to get adopted.
From his front yard in Springfield, Missouri, the 9-year-old spent last weekend selling cups of lemonade and cookies by the hundreds. Every cent will go to legal fees so his guardian, Donnie Davis, can adopt him.
Davis and her husband, Jimmy Davis, had expected to raise a few hundred bucks with the lemonade stand and a yard sale — far short of the $5,000 and $10,000 in fees it will take to adopt the boy. But then the local media got wind of her story, word got around, and people began flocking to her yard.
“It just spread,” she told CNN. “We had people driving two-and-a-half hours just to meet Tristan.”
On Saturday alone, more than 600 people came to donate and share their own adoption stories, Davis said. “We were constantly running for more ice, water, cookies,” she said. “There was one point in time, we put water in the cooler and sold out before it was even cold.”
The family has now raised more than $18,000 from in-person sales and donations through an online crowdfunding page. Davis says the additional money will go into an education fund for Tristan.
It’s welcome news for a boy whose life has been full of struggles.
A difficult past
On Tristan’s YouCaring page, Donnie Davis offers a sobering account of the boy’s childhood:
Ten years ago Donnie Davis’ former husband impregnated a 15-year-old girl, who then gave birth to Tristan.
When Tristan was 3 months old, his biological father was sentenced to prison for 22 years on a federal gun conviction. Davis divorced the father and agreed to help the struggling young mother by taking temporary custody of Tristan.
Donnie Davis then married Jimmy Davis and the couple raised Tristan as their own. When Tristan was two-and-a-half, his biological mother seemed to have gotten her life together and he went back to live with her, Davis said. Davis still kept in close contact with Tristan, taking him for weekends and speaking on the phone with him a few times a week.
By the time Tristan turned 4, Davis said she began to notice differences in his appearance. His clothes were dirty and too small. His mother allegedly was using drugs, Davis said, claiming the little boy was often left to fend for himself.
Davis said she repeatedly contacted child welfare agencies but no action was taken. She asked the school nurse to report Tristan’s abuse and begged neighbors to keep an eye out for Tristan.
Months and many desperate phone calls later, two officers knocked on Davis’ door late at night to ask if she could take Tristan into her care. He had been left at a local homeless shelter after his biological mother left him with a friend for days, she said.
The Davises have spent the last four years trying to help Tristan overcome years of abuse and neglect. It wasn’t easy, and Davis took a medical leave from work to avoid losing her job. Tristan has suffered from PTSD and is prone to emotional outbursts. Once he was hospitalized for threatening to kill himself at school. Tristan also was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, Donnie Davis said, which doctors attributed to the second-hand meth smoke he ingested during his developmental years.
A brighter future
Today, Tristan is on medication and has a support system of doctors and teachers to help him navigate through life. Davis says he is getting straight As in school and is slowly learning how to make friends and have healthy relationships.
After the adoption is complete, the family hopes to take a vacation to Oklahoma City to see NBA star Kevin Durant — Tristan’s favorite player — play a game. Tristan always tells his mom, “Kevin Durant is my bro.”
To mark a new start with his adoptive family, Tristan also wants to change his name. His first choice was Star-Lord after Chris Pratt’s character in his favorite movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
“It’s a good laugh, but Star-Lord is not going to be his new name,” said Davis, who reminded Tristan that Star-Lord’s real name in the movie is Peter Quill. “We weren’t crazy about Peter but he loves Quill. He proudly tells his teachers and everyone to now call him Quill Tristan Davis.”