WESTVIRGINIAVILLE VIDEO PRODUCTION & TRANSCRIPT: Bobby Lee Messer and Douglas John Imbrogno
This is not your average ice cream truck story. An old fashioned ice cream truck, cruising the summer streets of West Virginia, would be a worthy story anyway. Especially, as kids and parents hear the sounds of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ and other childhood classics, tinkling through their neighborhood.
And children come running, clutching dollars in their fists.
This ice cream truck story starts with this young fellow, Jacob Lee Lowe, a 28-year-old autistic man in Barbourville, West Virginia.
“He’s a pretty cool kid. We’ve worked very, very hard,” says his mother, Shirley Sansom. “To back up Jacob’s story a little bit, we adopted him as an infant. He was diagnosed ‘failure to thrive.’
“He was, unfortunately, abandoned in the woods.”
One day, he told his mom he wished for an ice cream truck. “It was in the fall. He came to me and said, ‘Mom, I want an ice cream truck!’
“And my response was, ‘Buddy, you find one. And we’ll get you an ice cream truck!'”
“Of course, not knowing that he would really find an ice cream truck.”
But an ice cream truck costs a lot of money. How to afford one? A family friend, Cabell County Sheriff’s Deputy Ronald ‘Bocky’ Miller, had an idea. “Bocky came up with an idea of doing a GoFundMe page. And we did. And it was very successful.”
The ice cream guy offers both classic and cool treats. Like Klondike bars, Banana Babies, Choco Tacos, Fudge Bars, Drumsticks, ice cream sandwiches and multicolored popsicles.
But like lots of things, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
“The official start date wasn’t supposed to be till May 1. But because of COVID—you know, a lot of people were sad. And kids were second home and parents were stuck at home.”
“So, we decided we would just start venturing out. And—made a lot of people happy.”
A chunk of their sales, which includes not just ice cream, but masks and stickers—Jacob’s brainstorm—goes toward a good cause.
“We do sell masks. That was Jacob’s idea. And the proceeds of that goes to autism awareness. We sell decals, and that goes to autism awareness.”
“And then the water is made from the Lesage water plant. And so that’s all packaged with people with disabilities.”
For all of Jacob’s specialness. Shirley, his mother, is a special person, too.
“I owned a daycare center. And I was a foster parent because I would take children in my center that needed a placement, you know, for an overnight or just for a short stay.”
“I wasn’t looking to adopt when they called me on a Friday at 4:30 p.m. And said: ‘We have a baby. Will you take him?’
“And my response three times was: ‘No.’ Because I didn’t want a baby. And I was having a party that evening for my husband. It was his birthday.”
“And they said: ‘It’s an emergency placement—we need to take them.’
‘”And, of course, I said ‘Yes.’ ‘But you better be at my house at Monday morning at 8 o’clock.’
“And 28 years later, he’s still with me. And he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“He’s my blessing and everybody else’s blessing. He makes everybody happy.”
“It’s almost making me cry just to think about it.”