Jeffrey Kahan has many pictures of his youngest son, Joshua. By far, his favorite remains a simple snapshot of a still-healthy boy relishing an ice-cream cone.
In April 1997, Josh was diagnosed with leukemia – the No. 1 disease killer of American children between the ages of 1 and 14. Five months later, shortly before his third birthday, Josh succumbed to the illness.
Since then the Voorhees, N.J., father has dedicated much of his life to financing research on pediatric leukemia, hoping that medical advances may one day lead to a cure, sparing other families such pain and loss.
"It started as a way for me to still keep Josh close to me," said Kahan, referring to the foundation he established that has raised more than $1 million for research at the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania, where Josh was a patient. "You never know where the next breakthrough is going to come from, and that just takes money."
One way Kahan decided to scrounge up funds while at the same time bring smiles to many faces was to sell ice-cream over the July Fourth weekend – lots and lots of ice-cream, that treat his little boy enjoyed so much. For the past seven years, the all-you-can-eat Super Scooper event has been a holiday fixture at the Penn's Landing Festival Pier near Spring Garden Street.
The entire Kahan family – wife, Michelle, and their two older children – are fully involved in the weekend-long event.
The idea: Trade $5 for a plastic spoon and sample a multiplicity of flavors donated by more than 20 manufacturers, including Ben & Jerry's and Häagen-Dazs. And if you accidentally throw away the spoon with a finished cup? The rules say pay again, but asking nicely yielded a replacement utensil this past weekend.
Kahan explained that more than 200 volunteers – many of whom are family and friends, though more are strangers who give up their weekend to support the cause – spend the day scooping ice-cream, collecting tickets, selling bottled water and soft pretzels, and running back and forth lugging large containers of ice-cream from trucks to the air-conditioned tent along the Delaware that houses the affair.
A few volunteers last weekend even stood down on the main section of Penn's Landing near Walnut Street, telling people that if they were looking to indulge themselves, they needed to walk about a half-mile north.
Just Keep Scooping!
The inaugural Super Scooper held in 1998 netted $6,000; last year, the three-day event raised more than $100,000.
This year, the proceeds were more modest, about $50,000.
Kahan insisted that the Live 8 concert, held all day Saturday on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to raise awareness about poverty and AIDS in Africa, convinced many to avoid Center City over the holiday weekend.
Still, a constant flow of people moved in and out of the tent, in the process sampling everything from Java bean to coconut-flavored cooled confections. The evidence was apparent on quite a number of shirts and faces.
Meredith Hoxie, a 22-year-old visitor from North Carolina, had just polished off scoop No. 3, and was taking a much-needed break. She hoped for six samplings.
"We're doing everything this weekend," she said, referring to her friend, 24-year-old Sara Pugh. "We were at Live 8 for 15 hours, and now we're having all-you-can-eat ice-cream."
Matt Gallagher, a 25-year-old who favored peanut-butter-flavored ice-cream and said he'd sampled more than 10 scoops, declared that this was "the greatest day of my life!"
And for Jay Kahan, Joshua's grandfather, the long days of scooping for strangers were both gratifying – and exhausting.
As he explained: "With all this ice-cream around, you would think that you'd eat it all day long," said the resident of Yardley. "But you don't. You're too busy working."