When Michelle Anthony Norwood was a young girl growing up in Crossville, she remembers seeing an ice cream truck and thinking about how great it was.
Fast forward to 2017 while visiting her sister in Memphis and seeing yet another ice cream truck and there is where her dream began. Little did she know then how many lives she would touch in the process.
Norwood and her son Hunter are now the owner and CEO of the mobile business, "A Little Something Extra Ice Cream." While they live on Sand Mountain, they have a lot of friends in Guntersville and they've been making the rounds here lately, with recent stops at Total Dental Care and at the Guntersville High Crimson Guard band camp.
The business was created as a job opportunity for Hunter, who has Down Syndrome but the business has now branched out and has been able to train and employ many other amazing people with intellectual and physical exceptionalities, according to Norwood, who is also a special education teacher.
"The ice cream truck is used to teach social skills, life skills, and employment skills for our amazing workers. Every employee goes through a certification program to become an ice cream expert," she continued. "They will also get a badge and when they come to work, they go to what we call the 'Wall of Fame' on the back wall. They come in, get their badge with their name on it and go to work. It makes them feel so important to be able to put on their uniform and badge."
The ice cream truck now has two dozen employees from different areas including Etowah, DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall and Madison Counties and also one employee in Trenton, Georgia.
The beautiful truck itself is very hard to miss, as it has pictures of young adults and children who have "various exceptionalities" for its artwork, including Hunter and his siblings on the back.
The mobile ice cream unit has come a long way was from it's humble beings as a used, plain, white Fed-Ex Truck when it was first purchased in May of 2018.
"We got a used Mercedes Sprinter. I said we needed a Mercedes, because we're so extra," laughed Norwood.
At first, Hunter wasn't sold on the idea of an ice cream truck as his first love is Mexican food but after a little convincing, he decided to go along with the businesses proposal.
After purchasing one of the biggest freezers that would comfortably fit into the truck, they were off to their first festival.
"Our first event was the Fyffe UFO Days," she recalled. "It was amazing. There were so many people there, it was more than we could have dreamed. Hunter had one of his camp counselors from Montgomery drive all the way up just to buy an ice cream. We had people drive in from Atlanta. I knew then that we really has something."
She said this is a great way to give not only Hunter but other young adults the chance to experience what most people experience, to not only help with employment and life skills but to use this for advocacy and awareness.
"I can remember when Hunter was born, no one wanted to talk about what he could do. They wanted to say all of these things that might hold him back. No one wanted to say, hey, he could be a CEO one day. Well, guess what? He is," she said. "Hunter was delayed growing up. While other kids were playing T-ball or going to Vacation Bible School, we were still learning to walk or just potty training. So, we did miss a lot of things. But this opportunity has been able to let us be a part of things that we feel like Down Syndrome has robbed from him at one point."
Norwood says she wants other parents to see that their children's dreams can come true.
"Hunter has now been a part of so many Vacation Bible Schools, birthday parties and All-Star ball games and every time we bring our truck, he's the star of the show," she continued. "He takes pride in telling people that he's the CEO and this gives him the perfect opportunity to spend with his friends as well."
Hunter not only graduated from Geraldine High School this past year but he was also be featured on the Jumbo-tron in Times Square in New York on September 12 to kick off Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
Kendle Larson, another ice cream expert, was also featured on the Jumbo-tron in September.
Norwood said this not only helps the young adults and children have time together while they work but this helps their parents too.
"Sometimes parents can feel isolated," she continued. "This gives them a chance get together and lean on each other while their kids are working and happy. It's rewarding and great for everyone. We're a tribe, it's what we call ourselves."
Norwood said she tells everyone who asks, this was a "God thing."
The ice cream truck and its employees are ready to serve their pre-packaged Blue Bunny ice cream treats and bring joy anywhere they are needed.
They can be contacted for events by Facebook, by phone at (256) 601-7125, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.