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Sweet summertime | Family creates ice cream delivery boat, raises money for people with disabilities

The Johnson Family started the ice cream boat on Norris Lake as a way to give back to people with disabilities in the community.

ANDERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — An Anderson County family is making summertime a little bit sweeter. They spend each weekend on Norris Lake floating with frozen treats in tow.

Every ice cream delivery goes toward a special cause in the community.

It's hard to miss the Johnson family boat on the water. It's bright blue, covered in flower stickers and is usually blasting ice cream truck music.

In this family, Steve and Kelly Johnson are the parents navigating through every type of situation. Their son, Will Johnson, brings the light even when the waters get rough and the skies are cloudy.

"Will is outgoing, fun-loving, a prankster who says what's on his mind, whether it be appropriate or not appropriate," Kelly Johnson said. "He has a smile for everybody."

That's why they turned their personal boat into an ice cream float in May 2022. They started out by asking online in the Norris Lake Lovers Facebook group whether anyone would be interested in the idea.

"I think there were thousands of comments of, 'Absolutely, come see us, we'll support you,'" Kelly Johnson said. "How great is that, that people want to support you?"

"As always, we went in with blind faith and the support has been phenomenal," Steve Johnson said.

With backing from the community, they started loading up their cooler with frozen treats — delivering sweets for donations.

All of that money raised goes toward children and adults with disabilities. The Johnson family helped create the nonprofit Open Doors Tennessee, which supports people with disabilities in a variety of ways.

Not only do people donate while out on the lake, but there are also multiple people who give who don't visit the water.

For the Johnsons, it's a cause close to their hearts. Will was diagnosed with autism at an early age. His family's goal all along has been to support him in everything he does, while giving him the tools for success.

The ice cream boat is a way for Will to stay involved during his first year out of high school. He was a star member of the cheer squad at Anderson County High School, who stayed busy all of the time.

RELATED: Anderson County boy with autism becomes star of cheer team, inspires others

"His world went from huge, to very small, very fast," Steve Johnson said. "He wasn't prepared, I wasn't prepared, and we were both struggling."

But now, Will's popularity is back intact.

"It feels kind of like we're just traveling around with a celebrity now," Kelly Johnson said.

Credit: Steve Johnson

The family posts where the boat will be each day on Facebook, so people know to be on the lookout. People shout Will's name from across the water just to say 'hi' or wave.

"Sometimes they just want to talk, which is the purpose of getting him out, so he has interaction not with just his family, but with the community," Kelly Johnson said.

Will reaches into the cooler to grab what each customer wants and swirls up pup cups every time he sees a dog

"If we can bring a smile to somebody if he can bring a smile to somebody, why wouldn't you want to do that?" Kelly Johnson said.

They will keep serving up smiles with their own personal "sun" in tow and music blaring through the air.

You can find their ice cream route each weekend on the Norris Lake Lovers Facebook Page.

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