By Luke Voogt
A local ice-cream man is bringing a scoop or two of joy to ‘iso’ birthdays across Geelong.
With COVID-19 restrictions preventing kids’ birthday parties, Ben Ramos is rum ’n’ raisin the bar to add a cherry on top of their celebrations.
“All the happy faces make it worthwhile,” the father-of-four said.
“It just makes them feel special for the day.”
‘Mr Pro Whipp’ has been driving his ice cream van to up to 10 birthdays a day to bring a rainbow of flavours to big and little kids alike.
“For most kids it was the highlight of their birthday – having the ice cream man come into the street especially for them,” he said.
“Not to mention the adults that requested that as well. Some say, ‘this is the most exciting thing that’s happened since lockdown began’.
“We’re happy to give them a bit of hope that things are going to return to normal.”
One boy eating a sandwich chucked it away in excitement when the van turned up, Ben said.
Hilariously, a lady in her 70s reacted the same way on a different trip, flinging her gardening gloves before rushing inside to grab her purse, he said.
When the restrictions hit Ben and wife Kacey, who has taken up home-schooling duties too, drove the ice cream van through streets to keep their family business afloat.
“Before the coronavirus lockdown we were doing a lot of events and work on the waterfront,” Ben said.
“That totally stopped. I had to brainstorm a way to keep the businesses afloat and do it in a safe way.”
Initially, they would attend birthdays on the way to a job.
But they soon became inundated with requests from parents.
“They would see pictures online and want that for their kids,” he said.
“Now most of the day just gets tied up driving from suburb to suburb attending these kids’ birthdays.”
Some people put in requests to shout their older neighbours ice cream too, although kids remained “top priority”, Ben said.
Between birthdays they still do the “old-fashioned driving around the streets playing music”, he said
They perform health checks and take temperatures daily before starting work to protect the community and their family, Ben said.
“The last thing we would want to do is transmit the virus.”
Ben only wishes he could take dad Juan along for the ride to see how his former business was going.
“He was the ice cream man before for me.”
But with Juan recently turning 80, Ben is playing it safe, for now.