Wendy’s putting dreams on the menu
It’s all about the kids.
Until closing time tonight at the Penticton Wendy’s and the eight other Inland Restaurants franchise locations in the Thompson Okanagan everyone can help make dreams come true for a very special group of youngsters in their communities.
During the 17th Wendy’s Dreamlift Day, all the proceeds from the sales, as well as restaurant staff, management and owner’s wages, are donated to send about 80 children to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
How important are the trips for these children who suffer from severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses?
Just ask 10-year-old Matts Bratton, who was among the lucky ones on the most recent adventure in 2009.
“It did lots of good things for us and made some very good memories for me that I will never forget,” said the Penticton youngster who suffers from hearing impairment. “It gave me more confidence, especially going on a plane for the first time, and I think it helped a lot of the other kids that way too.”
His favourite part of the trip in addition to the many rides was meeting the Orange County Sheriff member (California), one of the many who serve as guides for the kids during the day.
In fact Matts enjoyed his experience so much he decided to volunteer his time at Wendy’s for the 2010 Dreamlift Day and may do it again this year.
“I helped out because I wanted to give back to the people who helped make it possible for me to go,” he said. “This was fun too because I got to talk to a lot of people about the trip and they asked lots of questions.
“These people are really nice, they’re the ones who came in to donate their money to make this come true.”
Andrea Bratton noticed a marked change in her son when he returned that December night.
“Oh he was very tired but was very excited — the memories that he has made — he still talks about it,” she said. “He’s definitely more confident, and I think it was nice for him to go somewhere without us because as parents we tend to hassle him about things. It’s nice for these kids to go just to be independent for a day.”
According to Andrea, there was another bonus: “Because they’re with others with disabilities they don’t feel singled out. They’re all the on the same level and there’s nobody there to pick on them.
“They face issues and challenges everyday, and so often they don’t get to go out and just be a kids.”
Naramata’s Wanda Berry is an oral interpreter who travelled with Matts’ group to California.
“It was magical right from the start,” she recalled. “When we left Kelowna it was cloudy, and when we got above the clouds the sun was coming up and Matts looked at me and said ‘It’s just like heaven.’
“The looks on their faces were just incredible, and when we landed and they came down the ramp they were dancing — the vibration — just beaming from ear to ear.”
At the end of the day the value of the trip to her was much more than a fun adventure.
“I saw a real sense of gratitude from the kids, like ‘how could this happen to me?’” said Berry. “You can’t replace this sort of thing because these are memories they will never forget.”
According to Akbal Mund of Inland Restaurants, almost $100,000 was raised last year.
“It’s not a Wendy’s event,” he said. It’s a community event.”
Former president Steve Tuck of the Interior chapter of the Sunshine Foundation of Canada, which organizes the Dreamlift flights to Disneyland, added: “It’s the most fabulous day in the Valley. People will wait in line and it’s all because of this cause. People have really embraced this.”
Besides Wendy’s staff, local celebrities and dignitaries will be working behind the scenes today as well as Orange County Sheriffs.
Sheriff Capt. Linda Solorza will be at the Penticton Wendy’s, and for her there is a very emotional connection to her participation.
“I had an uncle who was special needs and he lived to be 80 years old, and we felt blessed. For me this is just an opportunity to give back and to help out where I can,” said the officer this week following her arrival in the Peach City. “This is a chance for all of us to give back and to be thankful for what we have and send some very deserving children down to Anaheim to Disneyland.
“I can’t think of a more rewarding way to spend a day so I just encourage everyone to come out and participate.”
The next Dreamlift flight is expected to lift off in December.
“These kids are facing challenges and the chance to get out of their world for a day is a dream,” said Tuck.