New Wendy's owner excited to carry on Dreamlift Day tradition
Wendy's staff and management, local volunteers, sheriffs from Orange County and thousands of residents are getting ready for one of the most successful fundraisers held annually throughout the southern interior of B.C.
The 19th annual Wendy's Dreamlift Day runs from 6 a.m. to close Wednesday, at restaurant locations in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Vernon and Penticton.
The gross proceeds from all food and beverage sales—as well as staff, management and owner's wages—will be put toward the next Dreamlift to Disneyland: A one-day adventure organized by the Sunshine Foundation of Canada that sends children challenged by severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses to California.
The next Dreamlift is scheduled for later this year.
This is the first year Ken Park, owner of the participating Wendy's restaurants, will be directly involved with Dreamlift Day.
John Tietzen, former owner and pioneer of the fundraiser, sold his franchises to Park last year. At the time, Park assured Tietzen he would carry on the fundraising tradition.
"Last year I experienced Dreamlift at a Kamloops location," said Park.
"I spent the entire day watching, observing and learning. I thought: Wow, this is nothing like I've seen before…there is a lot of emotional attachment to this event."
Those who have been involved with the fundraiser for several years know the ins and outs of organizing the event; however, Park said he was impressed how much work goes into preparation for the event.
"They've put a tremendous amount of time and effort into arranging all of this," said Park.
"They are doing a very good job of getting everything ready."
Last year over $114,000 was collected, bringing the total raised to $1.1 million since 1995.
The new owner said the goal is to beat last year's record-breaking total.
Park said he hopes to experience the Dreamlift to Disneyland later this year, but noted he is not willing to take a seat away from a potentially deserving child. If the flight is full, he said he will likely fly down on his own and meet up with the group in Anaheim.
This year will be the first time Lyle Eggen, general manager of the Highway 97 Wendy's location, will be behind the counter on Dreamlift Day.
Eggen began his role in Kelowna in 2012 after running a Wendy's in Prince George for six years.
The new general manager said the days leading up to Dreamlift Day have been stressful, but "worth every moment."
"It seems like you just have endless energy. Everybody is working toward that goal of getting the store ready to go," said Eggen.
Although he hasn't worked a Dreamlift Day in the past, he has supported the cause as a customer.
"The thing that strikes me is how knowledgeable the people in the lineup are.
"It seems the entire community knows what this event is about and what the money is going toward."
Regular Wendy's employees will be joined by local celebrities, community organizations, Mounties, former Wendy's employees and other residents to help serve the seemingly endless lineup of customers.
"The people who are coming in have the right attitude; they want to be here to help.
"Many hands make light work."
Dorothy Hamilton, regional marketing director for Wendy's, said this year's focus is on how to refer a child.
"It's important for Wendy's that everybody in our region know exactly how to start the referral process," said Hamilton.
"If they know a child who has a severe physical disability or life-threatening illness, it is really easy to connect with Sunshine and get everything started."
That process can be done by visiting sunshine.ca and clicking on the "dreams" tab.
"We want to make sure that there aren't any children who haven't been given this opportunity."
The Dreamlift to Disneyland trip currently takes place every two years and is meant to give children ages three to 18 a day in the happiest place on Earth.
According to Hamilton, the Sunshine Foundation has a team of doctors that go over applications to determine the children most suitable for the journey.
Some children's conditions prevent them from travelling, but Hamilton encouraged residents to refer those kids as well because the Sunshine Foundation may have the ability to accommodate them with a unique, personalized dream.
Melvin Robertson knows how much Dreamlift to Disneyland can mean for a child. His grandson, Clayton, went on the 2009 trip.
"He still talks about it," said Robertson.
"It's terrific for the people who go on it; it's one very important part of (their) lives."
Clayton suffers from Cystic Fibrosis.
According to Robertson, his grandson has been in the BC Children's Hospital for the last two weeks after doctors discovered a small infection in his lungs.
"Ever since he's been born he's been going in for checkups every three months. They catch things before they get too far—but if you're not looking after yourself or getting the checkups, that might do you in."
Clayton was expected to be released from the hospital Tuesday.
Robertson said he will be one of the customers lining up for Dreamlift Day Wednesday.
"I'm behind it 110 per cent."