(Editor’s Note: When the original story of an area teen mowing lawns in Oakdale neighborhoods came to our attention, we chose not to report on the story due to some additional facts uncovered during researching the issue. However, due to the amount of attention this story has received, now going nationwide, The Leader offers the other side of what has become a polarizing story.)
The Leader has uncovered that the 14-year-old Oakdale resident who is gaining a tremendous amount of notoriety by local news organizations coast-to-coast for his act of chivalry in mowing lawns to acquire money to take his girlfriend out on a date, may have duped customers to another reason for the needed funds.
The story goes like this: The 14-year-old goes door-to-door with a lawnmower asking neighbors to mow lawns for five dollars. When asked the reason, he tells prospective customers he needs the money to take his girlfriend to lunch. Taken by what is perceived as such an act of gallantry, he scores the job and the admiration of at least two residents who post on Facebook community pages touting the teen and complimenting his work ethic to go make money for a date.
The piece is picked up by local television and other newspapers and the tale goes viral as the story caught fire on social media, with more than 100,000 shares including local businesses offering free meals to him and his girlfriend so he can save his hard-earned cash for other “dates.” Mothers want a boy like him for their daughters, others praise him for working for a cause, that he’s the epic boyfriend and taking initiative as some proclaim chivalry isn’t dead. One of the original Facebook posters, Timmy Jaramillo, told followers he’s campaigning to the Ellen DeGeneres Show to feature the youngster.
As of Friday, news organizations from as far away as Kansas City, Milwaukee, Texas and a number of others on the East Coast have run the story. But as today’s social media can catapult someone in the spotlight of fame and national attention that same social media can create a monster and collapse that notoriety as it exposes a concealed character.
While preparing to cover this story, The Leader, was able to unearth at least three non-restricted (five total) Instagram accounts where the same teenaged entrepreneur, who goes by the names of “Big_Fat_Stoner,” “Stoner_Money” and “Stoner Cody” on Instagram, freely using his real name and profile picture. All accounts had a number of pictures and videos of him smoking marijuana, possessing handfuls of marijuana as well over 40 memes promoting “getting high” along with pictures of drug usage and what was depicted as his personal paraphernalia.
A number of the pictures of the youth with marijuana have captions of “Gotta stay high all my life” and “thug Life.” One video posted by the Oakdale High School freshman shows him smoking marijuana from a glass pipe with the caption “Smoking at lunch.” The background appears to be Oakdale High School.
An additional video shows a double vision scene captioned, “This is what I see when I'm high” followed by another picture clearly showing the Oakdale teen with the caption “Boring weekend, gotta buy me some weed.”
On Friday, March 25, the teen with his mother present, admitted to having the Instagram accounts and the images were of him when he was shown them when contacted at his residence. He was also asked if the mowing of lawns was for drug money in lieu of taking out his girlfriend.
“I didn’t think this (mowing lawns) was going to get this much attention,” he said. “This has gotten out of hand. I didn’t spend money on marijuana – I get it for free.”
When asked about getting “free” drugs and if he spent any of his earnings on marijuana, the teen ended the interview and walked in his house.
His mother said she was surprised by the content of the Instagram accounts.
“They are way smarter than I am,” she said about her children and social media. “I knew he did marijuana and he’s in drug classes for it.”
When contacted later in the day, Ryan Cox and Jamarillo, the ones that brought the story to attention on Facebook, said they had been contacted by the teen and told of the Instagram account.
“He was crying and felt bad for what was on it,” Cox said. “He tried to take it down a few days ago but said he lost the password to one and no longer had the email account to the other.”
Both men said they were disappointed, but would give him the benefit of the doubt that he was truly trying to get money for a date. They also said they would give the 14-year-old whatever help he needed.
“Regardless of what he’s done, he had it tough growing up,” Cox said, adding he learned the teen was one of six kids in a single-mother household. “He was doing something productive to earn money; but I’m not naïve.”
“He tells me he’s done, I hope he’s learned his lesson,” Jamarillo said. “With all this publicity he now has a huge support system to turn to.”