January 30, 2013 - 4:26 PM
“It was huge,” says Margot Newtown of Penticton, of being able to send her then nine-year-old daughter, Avery Newtown, to Disneyland, California nearly 13 years ago.
Margot Newtown was able to do this thanks to the Wendy's Dreamlift Day event, an annual fundraiser that collects donations and proceeds for the Sunshine Foundation, which sends children with disabilities and life-threatening illnesses on vacation trips.
Earlier today the Wendy's restaurant in Penticton, at 1303 Main Street, once again kicked off its fundraising activities. At about midday the line of customers into the restaurant snaked around one side of the building.
Newtown's high opinion of the program was shared by some of the volunteers working at the Wendy's restaurant. Among them were Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton, Councillor Andrew Jakubeit, Penticton employee Jim Porteous, BC Ambulance paramedic Michelle Tennisco and Captain Michael Toledo, with the Orange Country, California sheriff's department. One volunteer, Avery Newtown, who was slated to volunteer from 5 to 9 p.m. that day, also had good things to say.
Infotel News caught up with the 22-year-old Avery at home to talk about her experience going to Disneyland as a nine-year-old and being a Dreamlift volunteer for the past nine years.
Out of her childhood experience Avery remembers being woken up at 4 a.m. to board a 5 a.m. flight in Kelowna. As for her favourite Disneyland moment it would have to be rides on Splash Mountain.
Avery explains there were about 25 children with her during the trip with different disabilities and conditions. She herself has a development disability.
When she was 13 years old she began helping out at the Dreamlift fundraisers in Penticton. She says she enjoys helping out, greeting customers and distributing the meals.
Another volunteer eager to participate was Toledo.
He, along with other members of the Orange County sheriff department, are some of the volunteers who travel and escort the children when they arrive in California. Toledo got started volunteering with the Sunshine Foundation-Wendy's program 20 years ago. This is his fourth year visiting Canada to help with the fundraising portion.
Paramedic Tennisco has also escorted several children herself to California.
“A huge (number) of children come from areas all up and down the valley. When we go down with them we are assigned to the kids before we even leave. We go down as a direct escort.
During the trip down to the United States the escorts get some personal bonding time with each of their charges. On one of the trips, Tennisco served as a sign-language interpreter. Another time a group of children wanted to only go on the fast rides. Anything that was slow or considered going at a leisurely pace was avoided.
“I told the sheriffs that were assigned to us only the fast rides please, and we spent the whole day doing every fast ride. I think we did Splash Mountain four times. The kids were ecstatic and very tired when we brought them back home. Great fun.”
Porteous says he volunteers for the children.
“It's for the children who don't have these types of opportunities. It's once in a lifetime and it puts a smile on their face.”
Outside the restaurant, waiting in line were customers Yvonne Yazlovasky and Jeanne Underhill. They have attended just about every Wendy's Dreamlift Day. With them were dozens of other customers and nearby a large line of cars and trucks were slowly moving through the packed drive-through lane.
The Wendy's Dreamlift Day has raised more than $1.1 million since it first began in 1995. If you know a child who may be eligible for a future trip to Disneyland, visit www.sunshine.ca for more information.
All of the net profits from all of the sales at all participating Wendy’s, including owners, management and staff wages, are donated to the Sunshine Foundation of Canada: Dreams for Kids. Every other year, enough funds are generated to send a plane load of special children with severe physical disabilities or life threatening illnesses to Disneyland for a magical day. At the 2012 18th Annual Wendy’s DreamLift Day, $114,276.35 was raised, for a total of $1,109,356.99 since 1995.
To contact the Sunshine Foundation of Canada or nominate a child for a DreamLift, please visit their web site.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013