Passengers on the Sunshine DreamLift to Disneyland leave the plane at John Wayne International Airport in 2015. Papa John’s Pizza is holding a fundraising day Wednesday (April 26) to raise money for the Sunshine Foundation which makes dreams come true for special kids. Mark Brett/Western News

Dreams for Kids Day

Papa John’s Dreams for Kids Day happens on April 26

After just a couple of weeks in business Penticton’s newly-opened Papa John’s Pizza is already giving back in a big way on Wednesday (April 26).

Starting at 11 a.m. with some help from members of the Orange County Ca. Sheriff’s Department, the Main Street pizzeria is joining five other Interior locations in the Papa John’s Dreams for Kids Day in support of The Sunshine Foundation of Canada.

“I’ve never actually gone on the flight (to Disneyland), but I’ve been at the airport putting the little fellers on the plane and when you see the families, it’s a once-in-lifetime thing,” said Geoff Linquist, Papa John’s B.C. president and longtime Sunshine champion this week. “I see the before and after and I think if I take one thing away from it, the thing that really came to my attention was how important it is, not just the kids, but the parents too.”

One hundred per cent of the sales from the day along with the wages for most of the staff will be going to help the Sunshine Foundation’s ongoing efforts to make dreams come true for kids with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses.

Unlike the past when Wendy’s Restaurants in the Interior held a similar fundraiser for the foundation, this time the money raised goes towards all Sunshine programs including the group trips and the individual dream program.

Related: California DreamLift trip brings smiles to Okanagan kids

Linquist saw first hand the impact on parents of the children one-day at the Kelowna International Airport just before the flight boarded.

“There was this mom, it was hard on her, she’s smiling and crying at the same time,” he recalled. “But it really stuck with me, that sometimes this is the first time the parent has been separated from their child.

“That’s one unique thing I took away from that is not just what it does for the kids, putting the smiles on their faces of course but it’s the whole family.”

Linquist previously worked with Wendy’s before joining Papa John’s so he was well aware of the program’s merits.

“When we saw Wendy’s decided to no longer participate we couldn’t let this program go, so we stepped up and got involved and this is our third year,” he said.

Nancy Sutherland is the Sunshine Foundation’s CEO and couldn’t be happier the fundraiser is returning to Penticton.

“Literally every dollar helps and I know that you hear that a lot but raising these dollars for kids in their communities and nearby communities is going to make their dreams come true,” said Sutherland. “This is really about the kids who don’t always see possibilities, so being a part of Sunshine Dream program allows them to see that they can believe in their dreams and that things can happen for them that are positive.

“So if people are buying a $20 pizza or one of the dream cookies, every bit impacts children and how they see themselves in this world which is critically important for their confidence and self-esteem.”

She also had nothing but praise for Papa John’s, stepping up to the plate at a difficult time.

“It was critically important because it allowed us to complete one program and have a community presence,” said Sutherland. “This also drives a lot of awareness for Sunshine as a self-fund charity and these community initiatives and the funds raised are absolutely essential.

“So for the Papa John’s group and Geoff Lindquist to come forward and say ‘we want to do something’ and ‘what can we do to help?’ was a true gift, it really was.”

She agreed with Linquist’s estimation of how the DreamLift program to Disneyland and Disneyworld positively impacts the entire family.

“The kids have to be brave and trusting of people to look after them and so do their parents because it’s hard to let a very vulnerable child with a lot of complex medical needs out of your sight,” said Sutherland. “But because we have incredible partnerships with physicians and specialists who come on the plane, parents do give us their confidence and trust. Children see that’s something that is possible, that can be a part of their life, and not just be okay, but be fantastic.”

Papa John’s in Penticton is located at Ste. 102, 1770 Main St., 778-531-7272.

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