Ahmed Alwan, the ‘Bodega Challenge’ Creator, Continues to Help New York Community With Even Bigger Giveaways

Ahmed first made headlines last winter at Lucky Candy bodega, days before New York’s coronavirus lockdowns took effect. He was riding high and even getting attention for his selfless deeds from former president Barack Obama.

Last year, Ahmed Alwan’s TikTok “Bodega Challenge” went viral. Customers at the Bronx, New York, market would come in to purchase their items, surprised by the fact money wouldn’t get them their goods — smarts would.

Fast forward 18 months, and Alwan is still at it with a larger community giveback for students. Inside Edition Digital’s Stephanie Officer returned to the little bodega where Alwan hopes to encourage big dreams. 

Alwan thinks it's time to give back even more than he usually does. The Bronx, New York, bodega worker known for his viral TikTok challenges recently held a neighborhood giveback now that school is back in session. Sponsors like Arizona and Blessings in a Backpack gave him masks, drinks and other items.

“I think it's really cool because usually around communities and areas like this, you don't really see things like that,” he said. “And it's really cool that they're a small business trying to help out the community and stuff.

“I want to congratulate them for doing a phenomenal job," he continued. "I'm really happy that I'm part of this community around my area. I'm happy that the families are coming out for their children and not just stay home. And, and I really, really... I wanted to tear because that's the first thing I said. I'm very happy to see them doing such positive things for the neighborhood.”

Alwan first made headlines last winter at Lucky Candy bodega, days before New York’s coronavirus lockdowns took effect. He was riding high and even getting attention for his selfless deeds from former president Barack Obama.

And he says that over the last year and a half, he accumulated some repeat customers, and he has improved many family’s lives.

“So I definitely have a lot of customers that definitely come back, and there's a couple kids in here with families that come,” he noted. “I did the challenge with them at least 20 times each because they come back for their food resources and everything.”

He is also motivating them to learn, too.

“They're very educated. They come in. They love to learn," he said. "They're full of knowledge and stuff. That's one thing I did. I helped kids get on their education level a little bit better, from my community.

“And yeah, there's a lot of kids that are over here that come again, back to back just to pick up to do challenges again. That's what I want. I want my customers to be able to come back and say, 'Yo, I need this. Let's do it again.'"

Last year, Alwan was footing the bill for everything a customer won from his own paycheck. Now he says he has help.

“My dad is helping me as well," he said. "This stuff is all from Blessing in a Backpack. I got the equipment, though. My dad paid for the school supplies, the books, and everything. He paid for that. And I mean, I made money off TikTok, like our views. I got a little responses. I saved it up. But, so I'm using some of that.”

Saleh Obad, Ahmed’s dad and the owner of Lucky Candy bodega, says he is very proud that his son is a TikTok star and that he’s doing something good for the community.

“Well, I was so happy for him,” he said. “He was good. The beginning, he started with his brother. That was good. That was great for him, you know. It was good.”

He adds that it also feels good to see the community come out and support them.

“It feels great. We know the community. We know everybody. They are like a family.”

And although Alwan has continued to do so much for his community, he still doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

“Because I feel like I'm just giving them a little bit of stuff at the moment,” he said. "And then they're always going to need. I feel like right now, at the moment, I'm just giving them stuff that is temporary. It's something not going to help them in the long run, but I want to be able to help people in the long run, where they could continue to do after I do a challenge with them, they change their life completely.”

He now wants to change lives.

“Give them a certain amount of money, or a job, where now they're set for life," he said. "They're working now. They're supporting their self and their family.”

“I want my challenges to be life-changing, literally. I know I'm motivating people in everything I'm giving away, but I feel like it's still not much. I feel like if I really change a life, I really changed lives and motivate them to do better.”

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