When it comes to Wendy’s DreamLift Day, Mike Toledo has experienced the best of two worlds.
For four years the Orange County Sheriff’s captain has visited the Okanagan to participate in the event. For even longer he has spent time with children who benefit from the day in Southern California.
“I get a kid assigned to me and we spend the day at Disneyland having a wonderful time,” said Toledo, who was at the Penticton’s Wendy’s for the event Wednesday. “Then I come up here and see how it all starts.”
Toledo was one of six members of the Orange County Sheriff’s at DreamLift Days throughout the Southern Interior.
On the day all the profits from sales at Wendy’s 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 lift threatening illnesses to Disneyland for a day.
To make the event a success, it takes volunteers like Toledo and lots of customers.
Samantha Tadey, the general manager at the Penticton Wendy’s, said volunteers range from firefighters to RCMP, and members of the Penticton Vees and city council.
“I think this is unparalleled as far as a charity event goes,’ she said. “It’s fantastic to see so many people from the community come out. And no one seems to mind standing in line to get food.”
Bob Ogden, vice president of South Okanagan Similkameen Crime Stoppers, said this was his third year volunteering.
“I have filled bags with coupons, cooked fries and this year I am on balloon duty,” he said. “It is a good cause and it helps expose Crime Stoppers to the community.”
Vees goaltender Chad Katunar was also happy to do his part.
“We get a lot of support from the community, so it is great to give something back,” he said, as he readied slices of cheese for burgers.
As the volunteers performed duties ranging from serving to preparing food, customers waited in a long line next to balloon-decked tables and counters.
Mario Bergeron, who has an autistic son, said he was taking part because he understands the needs of the children who are assisted by the event.
"It's important to help the kids and give them some hope," he said.
Other customers like Sarah Francis, said she has seen family members benefit from the event.
“My sister is autistic and has cerebral palsy and she went last year,” she said. “I know it made a difference in her life and it’s good to see dreams come true for other kids.”
As for Toledo, he planned to be on hand at the Penticton’s Wendy’s all day to hand out stickers and pins.
"What touches me most is how the community embraces the day,” he said. “And I will be the best host I can be.”
The event also took place in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops and Salmon Arm.