Better than most, Julie Rosenberg Marzoratti knows ice cream can’t fix everything.
But it can help.
“It’s a small, little happy thing that you can take out of something bad,” she said.
So, Marzoratti brought dessert for breakfast, for 150, to Tega Cay Elementary School on March 21. The entire third grade celebrated what has become an annual tradition. First in Rock Hill, where Ice Cream for Breakfast was born. Now in Tega Cay, where Marzoratti and two daughters moved after she remarried two summers ago.
The sweet starts to the day began when Bruce Rosenberg received his diagnosis in 2011. On March 21, he learned he had advanced metastatic melanoma. His response: ice cream for breakfast.
“We took out of it, no matter how bad it is, we can enjoy it,” Marzoratti said. “You can’t always change the outcome, but you can change your perspective.”
There is another ice cream for breakfast campaign, that one focusing on pediatric cancer. Rosenberg knew about it before he died in 2012. He figured since he was the one fighting for his life, Marzoratti said, Rosenberg would run with his idea regardless.
The family hasn’t stopped running.
Last year there were almost 100,000 people worldwide eating ice cream for breakfast in Rosenberg’s memory. Their ice cream for breakfast effort isn’t a fundraiser. It isn’t even a cancer awareness campaign as much as it is an attitude campaign. The family wants others, young and old, to appreciate what time they have together.
Ella Rosenberg, now a York Preparatory Academy senior, said it doesn’t take much effort.
“Maybe just stop, take a minute and breathe,” she told Tega Cay students Monday.
Ella Rosenberg helped her mom pass out ice cream and spoons Monday, starting with Jay Niles’ class. Niles teaches the youngest Rosenberg, Lucy. Niles and the other five third-grade teachers watched videos and saw news clips on the Rosenbergs as they ate.
“I never realized how big it’s getting, but it’s growing,” Niles said. “And it’s for a good reason.”
By the time Tega Cay students had their ice cream, supporters in Australia already had. Others gathered in Germany, Abu Dhabi and other distant locales. And it was all because of social media and a commitment to honoring the late father and husband.
“I don’t think most people get this, to celebrate when they lose someone,” Marzoratti said.
Ice cream makes the day sweeter, but it never will be easy. For every student Monday who asked for ice cream for lunch as well, one mentioned a family member battling cancer. Marzoratti met more young widows through the Ice Cream for Breakfast effort than she ever would have imagined. People talk about choosing Bruce Rosenberg’s favorite flavor, mint chocolate chip, in his honor.
“It’s still pretty fresh,” Ella Rosenberg said.
But, family members say, the conversations are worth it. On Monday, Marzoratti got to speak briefly with a student she knows is facing a difficult diagnosis for a parent.
“We understand it’s hard,” Marzoratti said. “It’s hard and it’s scary.”
Not every day is a smile fest. Having Bruce Rosenberg die within days of what would become the ice cream event mixes several emotions together each year. Yet the treat for breakfast has been helpful for people well beyond the family, from online acquaintances to classmates.
“Talking about it, it opens people up,” Marzoratti said.
Even with its life-in-the-moment spirit, Ice Cream for Breakfast has its logistical needs. In a new city with a new husband, Marzoratti is moving past the point where the event almost solely serves to relieve grief. She is considering a name change for the movement to distinguish it from the like-minded charity. Better ways to keep it going online. More ways to bring more joy, in moments, to others.
The kind she scoops out every March 21 for herself.
“It’s impossible to feel sad on this day,” she said.