Known as the “The Ice Creamcycle Dude” those who love him, James Karagiannis is bringing a smile to his community’s faces by ensuring no kid gets left out.
James first began selling ice cream around the Buffalo, NY, area in 2007 and now leads a fleet of eight ice cream carts. When he first started his business, James decided to ride around disadvantaged neighbourhoods, where he sold icy delights at $1 a pop.
However it soon became clear that riding around selling ice creams wasn’t as simple as it sounds. “One of the hardest parts about being an ice cream dude is seeing the disappointment on a kids face when all of their friends buy ice cream but they’re left out because they don’t have a dollar,” he explained.
And so it wasn’t long before the big-hearted ice cream vender began giving out the odd freebie. He’d ask kids to solve a maths equation or pick up some litter before handing over the goods. But, as an entrepreneur knows, there’s only so much you can give away.
Sometimes generous locals would approach James with some money to cover the costs of a couple of kids. Suddenly, James was struck by an idea – he could ask people to donate money for underprivileged kids’ ice creams. He set up a pay it forward scheme online to ensure no kid went without an ice cream just because they couldn’t afford a dollar.
In turn, when they receive a freebie, kids are asked to write out a thank you note to the person who paid for it. “I often have people give me a few bucks and say give ice cream to the next few kids. However they never get to see the joy on kids faces when I hand them out. Now there’s an opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face and receive one in return,” James explained.
“If you buy a kid ice cream we’re going to have them write a thank you which we’ll mail to you. Maybe it arrives in your mailbox long after you’ve forgotten about it, maybe it arrives on a day you could use an extra smile,” he added.
The businessman was also keen to stress he didn’t set up his online scheme to make cash. “Between the postcard printing costs, postage, labor, etc this is not something I’m doing to make money,” James said. “Rather I just think it’s something that just makes all of us feel good.”
And James’ project has captured hearts all around the world. Writing on his Facebook page, one fan gushed: “James the Ice Creamcycle Dude is awesome. We need more people like him in the world. A world that sometimes feels full of evil. Seeing acts of kindness and love reminds me that there is still a lot of good out there in this crazy world.”
Explaining why so many people have fallen in love with James’ community-minded project, Rex Herzberg, one of the Ice Creamcycles drivers, mused: “So many people have a desire to help these kids. This is giving them a way to do it.”