A completely extraordinary officer | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

A completely extraordinary officer


WORLD Radio - A completely extraordinary officer

A family business secures a future for a son with Down syndrome and many other men and women with special needs

Michelle Norwood (left) with Hunter in their ice cream truck Photo by Myrna Brown

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, May 23rd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Life inside an ice cream truck!

The summer countdown has begun, and pure joy on four wheels could soon be rolling through your neighborhood.

BROWN: I caught up with two ice cream experts serving summer treats and what they call a little something extra

AUDIO: [Ice Cream truck music]

MYRNA BROWN: The ice cream truck is a gray twelve-seat converted cargo van. It rolls into the driveway next to Forest Hill Elementary. Michelle Norwood, petite and blonde, parks in front of the school flag. Michelle’s son Hunter hops out of the front passenger seat. Together, the Alabama natives head towards the school’s gymnasium.

NORWOOD: Good morning, good morning

A captive audience of curious fourth and fifth graders are sitting on the floor.

NORWOOD: I have three beautiful children. Our middle son is Hunter, the one who’s yawning because he didn’t want to wake up this morning. Hunter, you want to tell them how old you are? Twenty three. He’s 23 years old.

For the next twenty minutes, with chins cupped in hands, the students hang on every detail of Hunter’s story—his Down syndrome diagnosis, how he learned to read and what the doctors predicted he might not ever learn to do. It’s a story Michelle says she never tires of telling.

NORWOOD: Of course, medical professionals have an obligation to give you the basics of what to expect, but I didn’t feel like they had the right to just put Hunter in a box and say he will never exceed this.

The Norwoods decided to prove the skeptics wrong. Their mission started in 2007, when Michelle enrolled in graduate school. She ended up with two degrees, in education and leadership. She eventually started working as a special education teacher at Hunter’s high school.

NORWOOD: And a lot of my special education students actually began working in the school snack store. They were not only gaining employment skills but they were getting social skills.

That’s when she says an old childhood dream collided with a new vision.

NORWOOD: As a child I had always dreamed that there would be an ice cream truck coming through our neighborhood but there never was. I was in a small town. And it wasn’t long after I started thinking and praying about what God would do as Hunter got older, I started being awakened night after night. Always 2 a.m. and it was always just a little more each time on how to begin an ice cream truck business.

In 2018 the Norwood family founded A Little Something Extra Ice Cream. Hunter is the CEO of the company. But don’t call him chief executive officer….

NORWOOD: He is a completely extraordinary officer and he owns that title. He loves it.

But he doesn’t work alone. Over the last six years, Michelle and Hunter have assembled a team of more than 70 other young men and women with special needs. Michelle trains them to become ice cream experts.

AUDIO: I will be. I will be….the very best… the very best… ice cream expert…

That’s Michelle in a room full of ice cream experts in training, repeating their oath of service. They learn everything from financial literacy to product knowledge and customer service.

NORWOOD: Because if you’re the parent of a child with special needs, somewhere in the back of your mind you’re always thinking about that time when maybe you’re not going to be around and who’s going to step in and do that job and be there for your child. And so this is securing the future for Hunter and so many other families as well.

While Hunter is the face of the business, he’ll likely never be able to run it. But Michelle says they’ve accepted that and other hard realities head on.

NORWOOD: When Hunter graduated high school his big dream was to go to college. And of course, I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen with him. But because of the ice cream truck, we’ve been able to take it into colleges. Alabama, Auburn, Jacksonville State, Liberty University. It’s been a different pathway, but Hunter got to go to college. God made a way.

The ice cream truck has traveled all over the country—as far north as Virginia, as far south as Alabama. Michelle says life on the road can be both taxing and at times dangerous.

NORWOOD: We did a wedding in November where they wanted us to pull the truck. It had been raining and so the truck got stuck and we couldn't pull out. So they told me to loop around but what they didn’t tell me was that there was a ledge there and the back wheel went off the side and it almost flipped.

Michelle and Hunter were rescued, unharmed.

AUDIO: [Wrecker pulling the truck]

She recorded this video of the wrecker pulling the ice cream truck to safety.

AUDIO: Dear Lord, please God, please don’t let it flip. Jesus, please help us.

You can hear her praying in the background. Michelle says she wants her faith to be as bold as the Bible verse, written on the ice cream truck.

NORWOOD: That scripture, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good,” ultimately I want people to look at our lives and see we have a son with a disability. I want them to see that it did not hold our family back. It didn’t hold Hunter back.

AUDIO: [Hunter reading]

Back at the school, Hunter is reading the book his mom wrote for and about him. Each student will get a copy of Stars In My Eyes. But Michelle has one more surprise.

AUDIO: You’re going to have to choose a flavor of ice cream! (loud screams and shouts of joy)

AUDIO: [Ice Cream Truck music]

A long line of students forms as Hunter starts taking ice-cream orders.

KIDS: Can I get the Cookies and Cream Sandwich, Ice Cream Sandwich, Can I get the Nerds, Fudge Bar, Big Dipper, A Cookies and Cream Sandwich

Michelle beams in delight as she opens the boxes and hands the summer treats to her completely extraordinary officer.

NORWOOD: And if one mom can choose life because she sees that the Norwood family thrived because of the life of Hunter Norwood, then it is worth it.

KIDS AND HUNTER: Thank you, Thank you!

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown in Mobile, Alabama.

REICHARD: Myrna produced a companion piece on WORLD Watch, our video news program for students- where you can see Michelle, Hunter and their ice cream truck. You’ll finda link to the story in today’s transcript. And it just so happens that you can get WORLD Watch for free for the entire month!

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...