For families in western P.E.I. headed for ice cream this weekend, there's a new hero in town: a mysterious man who is buying free cones for hundreds of children at dairy bars in the area.
The man visited St. Eleanor's Dairy Bar in Summerside on Wednesday.
"He said that he'd really like to make some kids smile today, and I said, 'OK, what can we do for you?' and he said, 'Can you get me $200 worth of ice cream? Small kids cones,'" said Josh Fortuna, manager at St. Eleanor's.
"As I was ringing them in, the cash register lags a little bit, so I accidentally rang in a few too many, so it came to like $230," Fortuna said.
Fortuna was about to fix the miscalculation before the man asked how many cones $230 amounted to. It came to be exactly 101 small soft-serve cones, and that's what he bought.
"We were just gobsmacked that he wanted to do such a nice gesture," said Fortuna.
The anonymous donor has visited at least three dairy bars in the western part of the province: St. Eleanor's, the Richmond Dairy Bar and Vinny's Restaurant and Takeout in O'Leary.
At each restaurant, it appears to be the same pattern: a man pays in advance for 101 small soft-serve cones to give to kids, and doesn't want to reveal his identity.
Fortuna said he assumes he's a local, but "I've never seen him before in my life," he said.
A lot of people are struggling to make large purchases like that for a donation, so it was very heartwarming and beautiful. - Josh Fortuna, manager of St. Eleanor's Dairy Bar
At Richmond Dairy Bar, where the same thing happened on Thursday, employee Cierra Bridges said she recognized the man's eyes, but couldn't tell who he was.
"He had a mask on, probably as high as a mask could go, by his eyes, and he had a hat on too," said Bridges.
Bridges asked him who he was, and she said his response was, "Doesn't matter, just tell [the kids] that a random Islander guy bought it for them."
Fortuna said families who come by are grateful for the gift.
"Parents are just floored, like they can't believe that. 'Oh! We're taking our kids out for ice cream and they get it for free!' They think it's great," he said.
Bridges said it's the same story in Richmond.
"It was really nice to give them to people and see other people smile because of somebody else's actions," said Bridges.
Raising money for Scooter's
At both Richmond and St. Eleanor's dairy bars on Friday afternoon, there were still lots of the free cones left to give away.
St. Eleanor's is currently helping raise money for the owners of Scooter's Dairy Bar in nearby Miscouche, which suffered a fire earlier this month.
Any donations from customers to the fund for Scooter's will be matched by St. Eleanor's owner.
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