Men of a certain age will remember Bill Cosby’s routine about his anticipation of ice cream following his childhood tonsillectomy. “Ice cream! I’m gonna eat ice cream!” I listened to that album (“Wonderfulness”) nonstop for months.
The frozen treat is one of the great all-time comfort foods. In addition to its medicinal properties, ice cream is also one of the world’s greatest bonding agents. Before there were social media, there was the ice cream social, perhaps the first networking event. Today, hospitals and other organizations find that nothing brings people together quite like ice cream.
Last month in Cleveland, thousands participated in VisionWalk to raise money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness which researches retinal degenerative diseases. The Cleveland Eye Clinic, one of the supporters, gave away free treats and collected donations from its Mr. ISee truck, stocked with ice cream bars, sandwiches and popsicles from Pierre’s, a Cleveland processor.
Earlier this month in Boston, nine ice cream companies participated in the 30th annual Scooper Bowl to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, the charitable arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Founded in 1948, the Jimmy Fund supports the fight against cancer in children and adults. (When I was in junior high school, Dana-Farber treated a friend.)
Volunteers on Boston’s City Hall Plaza served 4-ounce cups of ice cream from noon to 8 p.m. It was an all-you-can-eat ice cream-palooza for guests who bought a $10 pass ($5 for children ages 3 to 9; free for younger children). For serious ice cream eaters, a $20 Scooper Pass allowed three separate entries. A niece, who is a bowl veteran, tells me that children collect the cups like trophies to prove how much ice cream they ate that day.
Previous events have raised $350,000 for the Jimmy Fund. This year’s goal was $400,000. Since its inception in 1983, the Scooper Bowl has raised more than $3 million.
The participating ice cream processors and brands are Baskin-Robbins, Ben & Jerry’s, Breyer’s, Brigham’s/Hood, Byrne Dairy, Ciao Bella Gelato, Edy’s, Friendly’s and SoCo Creamery.
Byrne Dairy, Syracuse, N.Y., was a first-time participant. Eric Greiner, the company’s director of sales, had a personal interest. His 17-year-old daughter Brooke is a patient at Dana-Farber. She is being treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The Greiners have made countless 5-hours drives from New York to Massachusetts and back over the last year. Eric found out about the Scooper Bowl on one of those trips. He recruited company chairman Bill Byrne to scoop ice cream with him this year. They were joined by co-workers David Prendergast, Mary Fietkiewicz, Karen Quesnell, Steven Pye and Ed Roloson. Byrne donated 283 gallons of ice cream to the event.
Hood and Friendly’s provided the refrigerated trailers for storage. Hood’s Brigham’s brand was an original sponsor of Scooper Bowl. Sarah Barow, Hood’s public relations manager, is a veteran scooper. She told me there is usually a good crowd at lunchtime and then an after-5 rush. The event is held rain or shine.
Greiner contacted me because he would like to see more processors and suppliers to the industry become involved. He told me that Brooke is doing “excellent” and that June is a big month for her: she graduates from high school, turns 18 and will be done with chemo treatments. In the fall, she enrolls in Babson College in Wellesley, just outside of Boston.
Greiner said the Scooper Bowl benefits their biggest customers: kids. He’s absolutely right. Scoop on!