Austin Contest Winner Gifts His Prize to the CBCC

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On most days, Brian Walters is an IT guy. Last week he held the too-rarely-bestowed and enviable title of Ice Cream Benefactor.

At this past summer’s Keep Austin Weird Fest and 5k Walters ran the 5k wearing an especially svelte disco Darth Vader costume.

He did not win the race.

He did win something else.

Runners were encouraged to post costume pictures on the race’s Facebook page, and he or she with the most likes was named the winner of a year’s worth of Amy’s Ice Creams, the ice cream of record in Austin.

Walters’ photo (below) earned him the win.

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“But I knew there was no way I could possibly eat Amy’s for a year,” said the soft-spoken Walters, pictured out of costume below. “So I called Dell Childrens’ to see if maybe they were interested.”

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You'll never believe this, but ... they were.

And so last week at the Children's Blood and Cancer Center Amy’s hosted an ice cream party and surely gave up more ice cream than had Walters used it himself (technically, the prize was 52 servings). Not just patients, but their families, along with administrators, nurses, doctors, volunteers, and just about anyone else who caught wind of the giveaway stopped by for some.

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Amy Simmons launched Amy’s Ice Creams in 1984 on a business model centered on product quality, customer service, and on the belief that as the owner of a community business she had a responsibility to give back to that community. She also understood that people don’t go out for ice cream because they’re generally hungry—they go for the experience. To that end, Amy’s has developed a reputation for what tourism books inevitably describe as a ‘quirky’ staff.

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A traditional aspect of the hiring process at Amy’s is a plain white paper bag. Prospective employees take the bag home and return it to Amy’s in whatever form they choose in what amounts to a challenge of creativity. The result is a set of employees who are a lot more fun than employees anywhere else in the city.

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At any rate, more impressive to me than anything ice-cream related was how they owned the CBCC infusion room.

In my own limited experience as an observer, athletes and celebrities who might be accustomed to owning the rooms they walk into tend not to own the infusion room at the CBCC. It is a humbling place.

I have only seen that room owned twice: The second time was less than two weeks ago by the folks from Amy’s, and the first was over two years ago, by clowns from Ringling Bros.

I’m not saying that being a clown is the quality of measure there. Nor am I saying that everyone from Amy’s was a clown.

Rather, that the quality that goes the furthest is perhaps the least obvious: Silliness.

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The infusion room has a very serious medical purpose. But it also has toys-- lots of them. Failure to notice this is a mistake, because although these kids are battling serious illnesses, they are still kids. They still value goofiness and absurdity.

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And although the folks from Amy's brought the requisite level of professionalism to the CBCC along with the ice cream, they also brought that good-time, oddball quality that has made Amy's a hallmark of all those things that make Austin the city that it is.

Brian Walters' generosity made the party possible. Amy's made it a party.

For more photos, visit my smugmug page.

This is the 16th installment in my occasional series on the Children's Blood and Cancer Center at Dell Children's Hospital in Austin, Texas. The others are listed below:

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