US dad hires two kids with Down syndrome to help run his ice cream truck business

A loving father has bought an ice cream truck and hired his two kids with Down syndrome to help him run the business. Joel Wegener, 61 and his wife Freida, 60, from Loveland, Ohio have an enormous family with ten children, two of whom, Mary 21 and Josh 18, were born with special needs. Joel, a retired science teacher and guidance councillor who now runs his own fundraising business, was keen to help Mary and Josh find suitable employment. After spotting an ice cream truck in his local area, Joel came up with the new business venture which would make some money whilst including his children too. In January, the father of ten purchased an old ice cream truck online for $6,600 which required some essential mechanical and cosmetic repairs. Joel and his wife Freida, with the help of their kids, worked on the truck throughout spring to get it in a roadworthy condition. In mid-April, Mary and Josh made their first sale, and Joel couldn't be happier with how the business is going. He explained: "Mary always wanted to work with me, but up until now there hasn't been a suitable job opportunity for her. "The reason the ice cream truck is so perfect is that it has allowed them both to develop their interactive and social skills in a comfortable environment. "When they're at work they practice things like smiling and asking questions, things that before they really struggled with. "Josh is in his senior year at school so he isn't around as much, but Mary is nearly 22 and therefore no longer eligible for public education. "We were worried about what she'd be able to do once she reached this age, but the ice cream truck has really eased our concerns." Mary and Josh are the seventh and ninth member of the Wegener family and the only two born with special needs. Joel and Freida have been married 36 years, having their first child in 1987, and their last in 2006. After Mary was born, when Freida fell pregnant again the doctors strongly advised her not to have any more children, due to the increased risk of them having Down syndrome. However, the couple weren't put off, and they proceeded to have three more kids, one of whom is their loving son Josh. Freida, who also has a teaching degree, said : "We believe it was the will of God for us to have such a big family and each time I fell pregnant I knew it was for a reason. "We were not afraid of having special needs children or the challenges that came with it. "I may look older now, but I feel the same inside at 60 as I did when I was in my twenties!" Joel has been running the ice cream truck throughout the whole summer, and every day he brings either Josh or Mary along to help him. Frieda came up with the unique name 'Special Neat Treats' for the ice cream truck which they feel has helped them stand out amongst the competition. As news spread about the family's unique and inclusive business, Joel has received lots of local and state media coverage which has helped them sell more and more ice cream. 'Special Neat Treats' is now experiencing their highest demand for ice cream to date, with people reaching out to book them in for events and birthday parties all across Ohio. "When we bought the ice cream truck in January I never expected for this to happen," Joel said. "The publicity we have received is amazing, and we hope that we can inspire other families with special needs kids to find new and inventive ways to support their children. Mary and Josh have really been enjoying the day to day running of the ice cream truck and meeting new people whilst supplying them with delicious ice cream. They added: "Our dad is the best dad ever and we love to sell ice cream with him. "We have a really fun summer and we hope we have good luck selling ice cream in the future." *Compilation video.

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