Author Abby Vega was traveling down the long stretch between Ponte Vedra Beach and Huntsville aboard a colorful snow cone truck just minutes before one of the most affirming moments of her life.
She’d been called with a mission for one of her first ventures as a snow-cone truck driver from someone in New Jersey. Her destination: a drug and alcohol treatment center for the 21st birthday of the caller’s nephew, a man she knew only by the name of Christopher, who at the age of 20 found himself in the center after fighting homelessness and addiction. And when they saw one another, their lives were forever changed.
“Christopher’s eyes lit up when he saw the truck,” Vega remembered. “He and 50 other grown men were running excitedly toward the ice cream truck, and at that moment he was no longer lost and neither was I. That’s when I knew I was meant to touch the lives of others and inspire people … when I realized my calling.”
The author, motivational speaker, executive coach and business consultant chronicles that moment and several others in “Sno-Cone Diaries,” her newly released debut book detailing her year-long journey aboard a snow-cone truck she’d bought as she aimed to create sorely needed change in her life. After losing her mother to leukemia and her best friend to a heart attack, the former salesperson came to a realization that would push her to finally pursue a long-held passion of hers.
“I was sad because of all the loss and snow cones make me happy,” Vega reasoned. “So I thought, ‘they must make everyone happy.’ And for the year I owned it, I was surrounded by people who were running to see me after years of being a salesperson where, quite frankly, no one wanted to see me. (The truck) let everyone’s guard down, and as a salesperson you don’t have that kind of access to everyone.”
Vega was finally living out her childhood dream, both literally as she wheeled around the country on a snow-cone truck and figuratively, as she acted as a conduit of love and care, delivering smiles to thousands of people in the form of an icy treat.
“The smallest little act of kindness given at the right time can change a life,” she said. “I got addicted to that feeling – I never felt better than I did that day, so I kept looking for opportunities like that.”
Though Vega’s former sales position provided her with plenty, it was after the devastating loss of two loved ones that she realized those “successes” weren’t making her happy. In fact, they’d been making her miserable.
“I needed something to give me life, to give me purpose,” she said. “All the ‘successes’ weren’t doing it for me anymore. I wanted meaning...and I didn’t think I’d end my career on the snow cone truck, but I knew it would take me where I needed to go.”
As it turned out, where Vega needed to go was pushing rubber along the road to rediscover a joy found only through “child-like” thinking. The truck was Vega’s most risky venture yet, even more so than the undergrad degree she’d financed with three part-time jobs or the graduate degree she’d pursued while working full time. Taking money from her retirement fund to do something most would deem “goofy or crazy,” Vega said, was unlike any risk she’d taken before.
But by year’s end, Vega had earned $100,000 in just 11 months. Determined to make the experience unique for every person who hired her, Vega set up shop in her truck everywhere from her daughter’s wedding at the Keeler Property to a birthday party spent letting children come aboard the truck and make their own snow cones. She partnered with Coastal Spine and Pain to bring the truck to at-risk youth, giving them snow cones and teddy bears as Christmas gifts. She delivered more of the same atop red wagons for children in Wolfson Children’s Hospital for kids who were unable to come outside for it. Vega’s joy came not from the money she earned, but from the joy she sought when she first attended “Kona Kollege” for the freedom to pursue her dream.
Now, she said, that joy comes from passing her story on.
“I just needed to show people my age how many of us are unhappy and afraid to take the risk that will change our lives for the better,” she said. “I hope it inspires them to take action because it addresses those things and to move past thinking ‘I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, good enough.’ Who cares? Just take those chances.”