Wendy to visit Kelowna, West Kelowna Wendy's

Wendy Thomas will be in Kelowna on Jan. 25 for this year
Wendy Thomas will be in Kelowna on Jan. 25 for this year's Wendy's Dreamlift Day. Wendy said she is looking forward to her first trip to the Okanagan.
— image credit: Contributed

You've seen her childhood photo, you've mentioned her name with a growling stomach and now you have the chance to meet her in person.

Wendy Thomas, the 50-year-old daughter of the late Dave Thomas and pigtailed image behind the world's third largest hamburger fast food chain, will grace the B.C.'s southern interior with her presence on Jan. 24 and 25.

Thomas is making the trip to witness Wendy's Dreamlift Day on Jan. 25: A fundraiser that collects money to take children from the area on a one day Disneyland adventure.

"I'm really excited to come to Dreamlift. It's kind of a full circle for me—my dad came in 1995 when John (Tietzen) started with his whole Dreamlift (team)," said Wendy.

John Tietzen, franchise owner of Wendy's restaurants in Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna, West Kelowna and Penticton said that the Dreamlift effort raised $10,000 in 1995.

He explained Dave Thomas agreed to do a public service announcement about Dreamlift for the southern interior, which gave the fundraiser a large boost.

Whether or not Wendy will do a similar public service announcement when she is down is unconfirmed; however, Tietzen said, "It's in the back of our minds."

Through 16 years of Dreamlift fundraising, southern interior Wendy's restaurants have gathered a total of $995,080.64. This year, the effort will surpass the $1 million mark.

"To raise $1 million is pretty exciting, especially for all these children to have their dreams come true," said Wendy.

Wendy said she was impressed by the Dreamlift concept, which sees staff members also contribute to the cause.

"I think it's pretty amazing how the whole management team and staff are giving up their daily wages to help out. It tells you what the community is all about: Giving back to their area for these children."

This trip will mark Wendy's first journey to the Okanagan.

"I've heard it's beautiful and I can't wait to see all our Wendy's restaurants. I'm really excited to meet the whole Wendy's management team and all the customers that are going to be coming and to thank them personally for coming to Wendy's."

In October, 2011, Wendy followed in her father's footsteps and appeared in a national television commercial to promote the company's new line of sandwiches: Dave's Hot 'N Juicy cheeseburgers.

"It's been an honour because we gave our hamburgers a little taste lift and named them after (my dad). It was just perfect timing for me to be able to introduce that to honour my father.

"There's nothing better than a Dave's Hot 'N Juicy; I know my dad would've been really proud of them."

Fundraising isn't a new concept for Wendy's restaurants; however, the Dreamlift initiative is something that is "a bit different" according to Wendy.

"We do a lot of fundraising for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption . . . it's important that, in our Wendy's family, we're always part of the community and always trying to give back."

Tietzen said that Wendy's schedule is still being being determined. He is crossing his fingers for good weather so that Wendy will be able to visit all the restaurants in the area.

"One of the issues we always have to (be) concerned with is the weather. The first year we brought up Orange County Sheriffs here, we couldn't even drive them between Kamloops and Vernon because the weather was that bad," said Tietzen.

"The plan is to get Wendy to every restaurant in the southern interior over a two day period."

As for the actual Dreamlift trip to Disneyland, Wendy hopes that she will be able to witness the children's excitement one day.

"I would love to go. I would love to be there to see all those kids and the whole excitement behind it."

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