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Dad starts inspiring ice cream truck business with his kids with down syndrome



  • Joel Wegener decided to start a business to give his kids with down syndrome employment opportunities.
  • Joel and his wife set up an ice cream truck named Special Neat Treats, in reference to its employees with special needs.
  • Joel said that Special Neat Treats is more than just selling ice cream, but “about an experience for everybody.”

Even before his two kids with down syndrome would worry about their career, this doting dad has already come up with a plan: employ them himself.

Thinking that job opportunities may not be easy for his adult kids with special needs — Josh, 18, and Mary Kate, 21, — Joel Wegener decided to buy an ice cream truck in April and run it with them.

“It started out as an idea to sell ice cream, now it’s so much bigger than that,” explained Joel, who also shares eight other biological children with his wife Freida.

One of the things that inspired Joel to start this venture was when Mary Kate said ‘I wanna work with Papa’ after she finished up at Pathways, a program for individuals with varying abilities. So, when they started the ice cream business, the dad thought that it “was just a natural thing to bring her in and also bring Josh in.”

Joel’s sweet way of attending to his kids’ adulting needs has soon become a community hit! His wife named it “Special Neat Treats” in reference to its employees with special needs.

Photo Credit: WLWT/YouTube

Special Neat Treats has “been an unbelievable journey” for the family.

“Almost every time I go out, I find a family with special needs or with some connection,” Joel explained to WLWT.

Photo Credit: WLWT/YouTube

The business has even exceeded their expectations with 5,000 desserts sold so far!

The loving dad wanted this opportunity to not only provide jobs for his children but more so to teach them about business and life. Joel has started educating them about social and financial skills, such as interacting with customers and managing money.

Josh said that his father suggested for him to “make [the customers] smile, and he’s told me about waving at them.”

“Because they love ice cream and they scream for ice cream when asking for ice cream,” the teen added.

The entire experience has also given Joel the hopes that Special Neat Treats will help raise awareness about the potential of people with varying abilities in the workplace.

Photo Credit: WLWT/YouTube

“It’s much more than selling ice cream,” the dad of 10 told WLWT. “It’s about an experience for everybody, but to 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.