Dreamlift soars over $1 million mark

Wendy Thomas—daughter of the late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy
Wendy Thomas—daughter of the late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's Restaurant—was in Kelowna to witness Dreamlift Day 2012 on Wednesday.
— image credit: Douglas Farrow / Contributor

Wendy's Dreamlift Day has given children with severe physical disabilities or life threatening illnesses over a million reasons to smile.

So, it's only appropriate that residents in the area have given Wendy's Dreamlift Day over $1 million.

On Wednesday, the 18th annual Dreamlift Day raised a record $114,276.35. Since 1995, the fundraising effort has gathered a total of $1,109,356.99.

The total amount raised includes the gross profits, wages and salaries from all the staff, management and ownership of the nine Wendy's Restaurants in Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna, West Kelowna and Penticton.

Customers were hungry to help one of the most successful fundraisers in B.C.'s Southern Interior as they lined up for hours. Some visited the restaurant multiple times throughout the day.

Wendy Thomas—daughter of the late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's Restaurant—was in town to witness the event. She said that she was blown away by the response.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Thomas.

"This has been so good. John (Tietzen) has been preparing me, saying that there are a lot of people that come in and that people would be waiting outside. It's exactly what he said; this is so cool."

Thomas managed to visit every Wendy's location in B.C.'s Southern Interior over a two day period. She said she was impressed by the level of volunteer, media and community involvement.

"I'm just in awe how people will wait in line for an hour to come to have a hamburger and be part of the whole thing of giving back to the community."

She got the opportunity to meet one young girl who went on the 2011 Dreamlift flight to Disneyland. Thomas said that she would love to see the the trip firsthand at some point.

"I think it would be really cool to see that whole end of it."

John Tietzen, franchise owner of the Southern Interior Wendy's Restaurants, spoke with Capital News on Thursday morning. He said he was tired, happy and thankful.

The Dreamlift Day fundraiser has been consistently successful over the last 18 years; however, that doesn't mean Tietzen doesn't get nervous beforehand.

"The biggest thing that gets us nervous is weather . . . when weather (is bad), a lot of people won't get in their cars and come out," said Tietzen.

"The second thing for us is trying to find ways to increase efficiencies so we can try to make it a better experience for customers."

The money raised will go towards sending deserving kids from the area on a whirlwind trip to Disneyland in the late stages of 2013. Approximately $150,000 is required to make the trip possible.

Although fundraising efforts are getting close to that $150,000 mark every year, Tietzen said that there probably aren't enough different children with severe physical illnesses or life threatening illnesses in the area to make the Dreamlift trip an annual event.

"What we've done with any overages is earmark the difference to go (towards) individual dreams in the area. There are some children that can't wait two years, so they may go down to Disneyland on an individual dream."

Tietzen said that he is already looking ahead to the 2013 Wendy's Dreamlift Day fundraiser.

"We will start planning next Wednesday. We actually start about 51 weeks out. In the fall we will start having regular meetings and then go every three, two and then one week to try to work on all the details to make everything work.

"There's a lot of work that goes behind the scenes to make this happen."

Just before Wendy Thomas headed to the departure gate on Thursday morning, she told Tietzen something that he said has stuck with him.

"The comment she made was that her belief is that this is not a Wendy's program. It's not a Sunshine Foundation program. It's a community program.

"She was immensely impressed with the community support everywhere she went for this."

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