LOGAN SQUARE — Nothing says summer in west Logan Square like the San Luis Freeze ice cream truck.
So, when the truck was missing in action for days on end earlier this summer, neighbor Donn Bichsel knew something was wrong.
Bichsel, a longtime resident of west Logan Square, had developed a friendship with Mario, the owner/operator of the uber popular ice cream truck, so he reached out. At first, Mario didn’t tell him much, just that his wife was ill — nothing else, Bichsel said.
But eventually, Mario opened up: He told Bichsel his wife, who lives in Mexico with his kids, had been diagnosed with breast cancer and he was having trouble keeping up with costly medical bills on top of his everyday expenses. His ice cream truck had broken down and he didn’t have the money to fix it.
Things came to a head a few weeks later when Mario himself suffered a heart attack.
Bichsel sprang into action. He gave Mario $200 to get his truck fixed and over the weekend he launched an online fundraiser to help pay for the family’s medical expenses.
Launched Sunday, the campaign had already raised $2,608 toward its $5,000 goal as of Monday afternoon.
The money raised will go toward medical expenses. Mario’s wife does not have medical insurance, Bichsel said. Mario works full-time at a local candy factory and operates the truck in the evenings to support his family.
“He’s just an amazing, kind soul who would never ask for anything,” Bichsel said of Mario. “It’s just nice that we’re able to, as a community, band together and try and help him out.”
Bichsel said he’s not sure how long Mario has been driving his ice cream truck around west Logan Square but it has to be at least a dozen years, based on old photos of his kids near the truck.
The San Luis Freeze ice cream truck has become a summer staple in the area around Kosciuszko Park. When the classic ice cream truck songs blare, neighbors of all ages run outside, sometimes barefoot, to nab Mario’s soft serve cones and sundaes.
“There is nothing that brings our families together more than Mario,” Bichsel said.
“When you hear him coming, you watch all of the kids come running out of their houses. … waiting for Mario.”
Bichsel said Mario was out in his truck this past weekend and those in the know were giving him big tips.
As the chief commercial officer of Revolution Brewing, Bichsel has invited Mario to sell ice cream at various events over the years and now he’s planning on connecting Mario with other event organizers in the neighborhood on top of everything else.
“We want to make sure he has the opportunity to work and make money,” Bichsel said.
Bichsel couldn’t recommend Mario highly enough.
“He is the nicest, sweetest man. … He’s the glue that keeps the neighborhood together,” he said.
Mario, whose last name was not provided, wasn’t immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.
You can donate to Mario here.
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