A line of community members could be seen outside the Ben & Jerry's on Franklin Street all afternoon on Monday.
According to Felicia Ross, general manager of the Chapel Hill Ben & Jerry’s, thousands of people went to the ice cream shop to get their free ice cream during Free Cone Day, which all Ben & Jerry's celebrate to thank customers for their support.
Customers received free ice cream between noon and 8 p.m., but Ross said there were already people lined up at around 11:30 a.m.
This is the first time the Franklin Street Ben & Jerry’s has been able to host the community-oriented event in three years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the Chapel Hill Ben & Jerry’s partnered with the Magical Moments Foundation for the day. The foundation set up a table in the ice cream shop where community members could stop to talk.
Customers could donate a minimum of five dollars to the Magical Moments Foundation in order to skip the line and receive an extra scoop of ice cream.
The foundation is a nonprofit that grants wishes to children living with the effects of facial burns, trauma or cancer treatment.
“Our goal of bringing this event here is so we can spread awareness to get more involvement with our local chapter that we're currently founding in Chapel Hill,” Catherine Bingham, a UNC Adams School of Dentistry student who works with Magical Moments, said.
Bingham also said the foundation began its partnership with the Ben & Jerry's recently when she asked the store for a gift card donation for Magical Moments’ silent auction in May.
“I literally just walked in two weeks ago and this was meant to be, so I'm really grateful for (Ross),” she said.
On Monday, the Magical Moments Foundation fundraised for two children with Alport Syndrome and Nager Syndrome — two conditions that produce cranial differences.
“Both of them have experienced extremely traumatic childhoods from living in and out of the hospital their entire lives, three major cranial surgeries and so much more – involving bullying and mental health issues amongst the physical health issues,” Bingham said.
She explained that the foundation was raising funds to surprise the two children with a trip to Walt Disney World.
Ross said Free Cone Day brings people together and gives back to the community.
She said the foundation's cause was very touching to her because she has two sick children of her own.
Additionally, the ice cream parlor brought in a balloon maker, featured face painters and played music all day to maintain high energy. Benny the Cow, Ben & Jerry’s mascot, also made appearances.
“Our number one thing with Ben & Jerry's is, 'If it's not fun, why do it?'” Ross said.
Free Cone Day attendees Becky Gonzalez, Nawal N’Garnim and Sara Jabae are all members of the UNC Women's Team Handball Club who said they came to Ben & Jerry’s for the advertised free ice cream after a tough weekend tournament.
The students said one of their teammates was working with the Magical Moments Foundation, so they came to support them and reward themselves for their hard work over the weekend.
“At the end of the day, it's for the kids; it's for the community,” Ross said.
Allison Reilly and Jessica Wu, members of the UNC Womens Ultimate Frisbee Blue - Pleiades, said one of their teammates encourage them to come to Ben & Jerry’s for the event.
“I’m grateful," Reilly said. "Free ice cream on a lovely day in Chapel Hill."
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