The smiles were infectious, the food delicious and the results were over the top.
The $114,276 raised during Wendy’s 18th annual Dreamlift Day Wednesday pushed the cumulative total to date to just over $1.1 million.
Helping celebrate this year’s achievement was special guest and restaurant namesake Wendy Thomas, the daughter of company founder Dave Thomas.
“Reaching the million dollar mark, that’s just incredible,” said Thomas during her first stop of the day in Penticton. “My dad was here in 1995 to kick off the whole Dreamlift project and we decided this year would be a great time for me to see it.
“This is just part of the responsibility that my father taught us: when you become successful, you have to give back to the community, because we’re all people and we have to help each other at times.”
While admittedly “out of practice”, the woman who is the face in the pig-tailed logo was also quick to lend a hand in the bustling kitchen.
“Oh yes, I worked there when I was a kid, but I didn’t get any special treatment, my dad didn’t believe in that,” she said while picking up a wayward bun. “It’s still a lot of fun.”
During the day, a total of nine restaurants in the Interior donated the sales proceeds along with staff, management and owner’s wages to the cause.
The money is used to fund the Dreamlift to Disneyland trip organized through the Sunshine Foundation of Canada.
The program allows for children between the ages of three and 18 with severe illnesses to travel to the Magic Kingdom in Southern California where dreams come true.
Joining Thomas here was Inland Restaurants franchise owner John Tietzen.
“Raising a million dollars says a lot about the event, it says a lot of the people who work here and it says a lot about the communities, the volunteers and the people who stand in line to make this possible,” he said. “It’s a big number and it’s significant because of the happiness we’ve brought so many kids with that money.
“If we can keep building this from year to year, we can help more children who have some struggles — just to give them a day to make their life a little better.”
As in the past, helping out were the many celebrity volunteers including media, emergency responders and other familiar faces about town.
Many of the VIPs’ tasks were of a less-challenging nature and most spent the better part of their shifts dodging the regular employees who were patiently (still smiling) trying to maintain some semblance of order.
Five members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were along again this year including Capt. Linda Solorza on her second trip to Penticton.
At Disneyland, the sheriffs escort the kids throughout the grounds, getting them to the front of the lines for rides and exhibits.
According to Solorza, the impact on the officers is just as emotional as it is for the children.
“I can tell you that on the other end, and it’s always the same thing, there’s not a dry eye in the place,” she said. “There’s nothing like seeing Disneyland through the eyes of these children. It’s like seeing it for the first time and it’s a life experience they (sheriffs) will never forget.”
The next Dreamlift flight is planned for late 2013.