City Kids Get Free Ice Cream for Saying 'Thank You' in Pay-It-Forward Campaign

PHOTO: James Karagiannis started a pay-it-forward program in Buffalo, New York where people can buy kids ice cream and in return they write hand-written "Thank You" cards.Ti Markle
James Karagiannis started a pay-it-forward program in Buffalo, New York where people can buy kids ice cream and in return they write hand-written "Thank You" cards.

An ice cream peddler has started a pay-it-forward campaign, bringing good will and cold sweets this summer to kids in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Buffalo, New York.

James Karagiannis, who goes by "James the Ice Cream Cycle Dude" has spent the past nine years cycling through the neighborhoods of Buffalo selling kids ice cream for $1 during the hot summer months.

In the past, when a child couldn't afford a cold treat, Karagiannis would ask a math or history question, and any child who answered correctly would get a free ice cream.

Karagiannis said math was the most popular subject, but he would also throw in some history or trivia questions for younger kids.

"They love running up and saying, 'Hey, can you ask me a math question today?'" Karagiannis told ABC News.

Karagiannis said he and his team of eight ice-cream sellers could never say "no" to kids who couldn't afford ice cream, but eventually the generosity started to take a toll on their finances.

"We couldn’t ride around all day and give out free ice cream, but I also I can’t say 'no,'" he explained. So he turned to his community for help.

"We’re with these kids every day, we have a responsibility to them," Karagiannis said, "They're kids in our community; we have to help raise them right."

Karagiannis started a pay-it-forward program last week that asks people in the community to pay the $1 cost for a child's summer treat, and in return the kid hand-writes a thank you letter that Karagiannis mails to the benefactor.

The beloved "ice cream dude" said he mostly brings his cold treats to disadvantaged neighborhoods because not a lot of others go there.

"Everybody told me not to go there, and then I started going one block in and another block in, and I just feel like people have an irrational fear of the inner city, but in my experience I haven’t found that to be true. The community is really strong. The children are all playing in the street and having fun," Karagiannis said, "I’m having a lot of fun."