Update: The 20th annual Wendy’s Dreamlift Day, held Wednesday, Jan 29 at nine Wendy’s restaurants in six commuities in the souther B.C. Interior —Kelowna, West Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Kamloops—raised a total of $108,610, according to organizers.
This year’s total was just shy of the record $115,000 raised last year. Since the Dreamlift Day started in 1994, a total of more than $1.3 million has been raised to help send kids with life-threatening illness from this region to Disneyland for a day.
Original story: Orange County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Bob Peterson was there when it started. And 20 years later, he still wants to help.
Peterson was one of the sheriff’s department officers who volunteered to escort children from B.C. with life-threatening illnesses around Disneyland during the first Wendy’s/Sunshine Foundation Dreamlift.
On Wednesday, he, along with five other members of the department, were in Kelowna helping with the annual fundraising day that raises money for the Disneyland trips.
“It puts life in perspective,” said Peterson when asked why he and his fellow officers volunteer year after year to help kids from thousands of kilometres away in another country enjoy a day at Disneyland.
He said it’s a day they may not otherwise get to experience.
“These kids have been dealt a tough hand. It feels good to help,” said Peterson. He said when you accompany a child who cannot see or hear on a ride at Disneyland and who experiences it simply through sensation rather than sight and sound, and who comes off the ride with a huge smile on his face and a simple one word description—“awesome”—you know why you volunteer year after year.
Peterson is just one of between 100 and 140 people associated with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department who work to make the Dreamlifts happen in southern California.
Marilyn MacDougall, an executive director with the department, has also been there from the beginning, now coordinating the effort south of the border.
She was also in Kelowna Wednesday‚ her fifth trip here to see firsthand the popularity of the Dreamlift Day.
“All you need to see is smiles on the kids’ faces and you know why you are doing it,” she said.
Yesterday, the Wendy’s restaurants in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Kamloops were packed as net proceeds from all food sold, as well as the donated wages of staff and managers went to the cause. Last year, $115,000 was raised and organizers were hoping to top that figure this year. (The figure was not known as of press deadline. Check kelownacapnews.com for an update.)
Ken Park, owner of the nine Wendy’s franchises in the six communities, called Dreamlift Day a special day for him and his staff. Having taken over the franchise prior to last year’s day, he said he was proud to carry on the tradition established by the previous owners in 1994.
As he looked at the snow falling outside the Harvey Avenue restaurant, he admitted while the weather could have been better he was still confident the public would come out in droves to support the cause.
For diners like Margot and Kit Carson of Peachland, going to Wendy’s to support the Dreamlift has become a tradition they will not miss.
“We’re here to support the kids,” said Margot, adding she and her husband have been going since the mid-1990s.
With local civic, sports and media personalities, as well as police officers, firefighters and ambulance paramedics lending a hand behind the counter, and the line-up to buy food snaking throughout the restaurant, diners accepted the long wait for service with good humour.
“You meet people and get to talk to them,” said Leanne Basran, who was there with her two young children and her in-laws. While the family ate, Leanne’s husband Colin, a Kelowna city councillor, donned an apron to help as a volunteer worker.
“It’s really become a fixture, a tradition,” said Cathy Sarino a chapter volunteer coordinator with the Sunshine Foundation of Canada.
She said Dreamlift Day is a major fundraiser for the foundation and while the organization makes dreams come true for children all year round, the money raised on Dreamlift Day goes exclusively toward the next Dreamlift.