Ice cream man teaches value of ‘thanks’

Published 9:28 am Tuesday, July 26, 2016

James Karagiannis is a cool guy.

Known as James the Ice Cream Cycle Dude, he’s spent the last nine hot summers peddling ice cream to neighborhoods of Buffalo. At a buck a popsicle, Karagiannis wasn’t planning to get rich or famous.

So he peddles his cycle around town, selling ice cream for $1. But not every kid can afford even that.

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“One of the hardest parts about being an ice cream dude is seeing the disappointment on a kid’s face when all of their friends buy ice cream, but they’re left out because they don’t have a dollar,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Karagiannis gives many free treats out each day and usually makes the kids work for it by answering a math question or picking up litter. But there are only so many free pops to donate and way too many wide-eyed youngsters in his bike path.

“We simply can’t afford to give to every single person,” he said. “Trust me, we get asked a lot.”

Those who do get a free ice cream must earn it. Karagiannis said he doesn’t like to just give it away, and instead uses the “gift” as a reward. He feels that since he’s around these kids every day, he has a responsibility to be a role model.

That’s where the idea for a thank you card came in.

“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,” he wrote. “Now there’s an opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face and receive one in return.”

Karagiannis had some thank you post cards printed. Every child who gets a free ice cream writes a thank you note to the person who made the treat possible. Karagiannis takes the cards and mails them back to the donors.

“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 wrote.

Between the postcard printing costs, postage and labor, James the Ice Cream Cycle Dude isn’t doing this to make money.

He didn’t set out to be rich or famous, but his good deed has not gone unnoticed.

Karagiannis has become famous on the internet, with Facebook comments spanning the globe and at least one invitation to spend a week with a family in Australia to reward him for his goodness.

And the riches? They come in the currency of smiles, not only paid by the many children whose days are a little brighter, and cooler, because of one man’s plan, but also from the people who get a card in a child’s scrawl, a genuine sentiment from a tiny human learning the value of saying thanks.

“I just think it’s something that just makes all of us feel good,” he said.

I do, too.


Donna Campbell is managing editor of The Daily Leader. Contact her at