Meet the Scooper Bowl: $2.9 Million for Cancer and a Whole Lot of Great PR

Ice Cream In June of 1983 The Jimmy Fund hosted a fundraising event on Boston Common. Four local ice cream vendors had donated a few truckloads of frozen treats, and for $1, visitors could eat as much as their hearts desired.

The event raised about $1,000 for cancer research, so the next year the Jimmy Fund did it again. They added three more ice cream companies and rented a tent, raising $12,500. Now, in June 2011, the “Scooper Bowl,” as the ice cream extravaganza came to be called, is in its 28th year and still going strong: all told, the program has raised nearly $3 million.

The Scooper Bowl has moved a few blocks up the street (to City Hall Plaza) and charges a little bit more ($8 per person), but it is otherwise much the same. People still stepped outside on hot afternoon last week, donated a few bucks to The Jimmy Fund, and consumed an amount of ice cream normally reserved for competitive eaters.

As I dug into my 8th cup of cold, creamy goodness at the Scooper Bowl on Wednesday evening, I found myself wondering what has made this event so startlingly successful, but it’s not really that difficult to figure out: everyone wins at the Scooper Bowl. The Jimmy Fund raises a large chunk of money and even more awareness for cancer research. The customers end up with extremely full bellies. And the ice cream companies get some great marketing while helping a worthy cause.

Though donating several tons of ice cream and a whole lot of man hours isn’t cheap for the vendors, the event is a public relations dream. Ice cream makers come out in support of a fantastic local charity, and at the same time they have the chance to gain new customers by letting people sample their delicious goods. Some vendors even take the opportunity to publicize new flavors at the Scooper Bowl. This year’s whacky flavors included Ben & Jerry’s Late Night Snack (featuring chocolate-covered potato chips) and an atomic fireball-infused Baskin Robbins ice cream called Firehouse #31.

I think I speak for every Bostonian who rallies against cancer and loves ice cream (which is just about all of us) when I say “28 more years! 28 more years!” 

Contributed by Jake Navarro. Follow him @JakeMNavarro