An Ohio family, who has two children with special needs, just came up with a sweet way to put smiles on faces while also ensuring their kids have job opportunities – and it all started with the purchase of an ice cream truck.
Joel and Freida Wegener, of Loveland, Ohio, have ten biological children together. Two of their adult kids, Josh, 18, and Mary Kate, 21, have Down Syndrome. Noticing a massive gap in the job market for people with special needs, Joel and Freida decided to take matters into their own hands. So, they bought an ice cream truck and hired their two kids to help run the business – they named it Special Neat Treats.
“It started out as an idea to sell ice cream, now it’s so much bigger than that,” Joel explained.
Joel bought the ice cream truck from another special needs family in Indiana before his wife came up with the name Special Neat Treats – a hat tip to the special needs employment aspect of the business.
“Almost every time I go out, I find a family with special needs or with some connection,” Joel said. “It’s just been an unbelievable journey.”
Since its launch, the Wegeners said sales have “exceeded expectations” with close to 5,000 desserts sold.
Joel said that the main goal is to help teach his kids financial, communication, and social skills. He says he also wants to create more engaging conversations about informing communities about the hiring potential of people with different abilities.
“It’s much more than selling ice cream,” Joel said. “It’s about an experience for everybody, but to also give my kids something to do and show other parents maybe there is something creative, out of the box that we can come up for our family and for our kids to do.”
“No matter what your abilities are, there’s something that you can do, and you can spread joy and interact with other people,” he added.
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