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SHSU Students Create Cones For A Cause

June 10, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Sara Thompson

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Hester and a patron

The anatomy of a snow cone: crushed ice drenched in thick, flavored syrup packed conveniently in a paper cone. It seemed so simple at first.

At least that was the case for Matthew Elliott, Nick Hester and Garrett Sakhel, the three Sam Houston State University students who opened the snow cone stand Eat ‘Em Up Kones this March.

But soon after, the trio thought up a way to turn the classic summertime staple into an even sweeter treat.

It all started with one distinctly flavored blue snow cone—the “tsunami.”

With its lemon-lime taste, the team originally purchased the flavor as a “standby” option weeks before the stands opening. Customers generally overlooked the “tsunami” in light of the stand’s featured options.

That would change on one March morning, when what had once been a simple snow cone quickly became much more.

On March 11, Elliott, Hester and Sakhel eagerly huddled around the television like many other Americans watching the footage of the devastation caused by Japan’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which unleashed a massive tsunami on the country’s eastern coast earlier that day.

“I remember watching CNN when the story broke,” said Elliott, who is a junior mass communication major. “We were all struck by the severity of the tsunami and how much was lost during the tragedy.”

Immediately, the three friends knew they wanted to give back, and with a recommendation from a professor, they figured out the “sweetest” way to donate to the cause—with their snow cones.

“From square one, we loved the idea of using a flavor to generate money,” Elliott said. “We started planning and brainstorming right after we heard it because we were so excited.”

The flavor choice was obvious. The once-overlooked “tsunami” would finally have its time in the spotlight.

Since April, Eat ‘Em Up Kones has donated half the cost of each tsunami-flavored cone to the Japanese Tsunami Relief Fund.

Elliott, Sakhel and Hester
Matthew Elliott, Garrett Sakhel and Nick Hester have sweetened the deal for patrons who purchase the tsunami-flavored snow cone: half of the money raised through the sale of the treat will benefit relief efforts in Japan.   —Photos by Brian Blalock

“Whether it helps only one person get through this hard time or an entire city, knowing that we are making a difference somewhere, in some way is what makes it really worth it for us,” Hester, a junior general business major, said.

The trio quickly raised $600 for their donation, and the feedback to the fundraiser was so immense the team was ultimately inspired to keep the efforts going until they reach their goal of $1,000, they said.

“Everyone loves how we are trying to give back, and it’s such a great feeling to have know we have our customers’ support,” said Sakhel, a sophomore general business major.

The “tsunami” will not be the last snow cone to make a difference.

The owners also decided to make fundraising a permanent custom at Eat ‘Em Up Kones. After they reach their goal, the stand will begin using the profits from a snow cone for a new $1,000 donation to a different charity.

”We would like to change it up and make sure we’re giving it to a variety of places that need it,” Elliott said.

All three friends already have a few causes in mind that are especially close to their hearts.

“For me personally, it would mean a lot to donate to special needs programs, breast cancer awareness and the church we attend,” said Sakhel. “Those are only a few of the many we plan on doing in the future.”

Giving back to others is one of the many ways the once simple idea of opening a snow cone stand has impacted all three of their lives.

“My favorite part about opening Eat ‘Em Up Kones is the atmosphere we share with our customers,” said Hester. “There’s music playing all the time, jokes being told, shade to lounge around in, but underneath it all there’s a shared sense of caring for our community and our world.”

It is that very atmosphere that keeps the owners optimistic about reaching their $1,000 goal. The three friends are determined to finish their efforts and make a difference to someone, somewhere.

“Out of this, I hope that our customers see that we are not like every other business,” Elliott said. “We care about our community, our country and our world.”

The Eat ‘Em Up Kones snow cone stand is located at 1219 14th St., where they are open from noon until 9 p.m. everyday.


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