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Roving ice cream vendors launch "pay it forward" campaign

Ice Creamcycle Dude

Imagine being a kid on a sweltering summer day. Some friends have just bought an ice cream bar or cone from a bicycle vendor, but you don’t have a penny in your pocket.

The locally-renowned Ice Creamcycle Dude has created a pay-it-forward campaign that aims to put frozen treats in the hands of local kids who can’t pay for them.

James Karagiannis and his eight-person team came up with the notion after they encountered many

Buffalo children who didn’t have a buck to buy curbside snacks. It’s a simple concept. People are encouraged to donate online or in person if they encounter one of the cycling “dudes.”

The campaign has raised more than $3,500 – nearly 10 times the sum Karagiannis had anticipated. Donations have come from 20 states, Canada and even Germany.

“A lot of people have said they remember when they were a kid, and all of their friends got ice cream, and they didn’t have the dollar,” Karagiannis said. “They were the one left out, so, it wasn’t a good feeling. A lot of stories like that. It’s really touching people, a lot more than I thought it would.”

Donors can make an inner-city child’s day by paying for a frozen treat. In return, the kids write thank you notes. Karagiannis mails the notes to the donors.  

The North Buffalo-based Ice Creamcycle team services many neighborhoods, including streets on the East Side, West Side, Riverside and Black Rock. They also make occasional weekend treks to Canalside. Each team member seems to have a favorite neighborhood. Karagiannis enjoys visiting the East Side.

“The kids are fun, everybody’s out in the street having a good time, and people are just really, really friendly, and they appreciate the ice cream bike,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for so long, we’re part of the community now. People tell us all the time that they enjoy seeing us come through.”

Karagiannis and his team, comprised of mostly college students, set out from North Buffalo around 2 p.m. each day and return in the evening. Each rider works a few days a week. Karagiannis says the ice cream season in Buffalo typically begins in mid-April, and ends around mid-October. 

There’s always room for more Ice Creamcyclers on the team, but Karagiannis says riders must possess four key traits; they must be fun, outgoing, personable and gregarious.