Wendy Thomas knows how to draw a crowd.
The inspiration for the name of the Wendy’s chain was barely in the Vernon restaurant Tuesday and customers interrupted their meals to meet her.
“It’s like being with a rock star,” said John Tietzen, local franchise owner.
“Everyone wants her photograph and autograph..”
Among those surprised to see Thomas at the 27th Street Wendy’s over the dinner hour was Hanna Beer, 10.
“I knew it was her from the TV commercials,” said Hanna.
Thomas was in Vernon in advance of Wednesday’s Wendy’s Dreamlift Day fundraiser at the nine Wendy’s restaurants in the Thompson-Okanagan.
The event raises funds so the Sunshine Foundation of Canada can send children with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening injuries to Disneyland for a day.
“To see the whole management team and the employees give up their wages for the day and the community come out shows what kind of a community Vernon is,” said Thomas.
“It’s all about giving back to the community.”
Thomas, whose dad Dave founded Wendy’s, met a child who went on a Dreamlight flight to Disneyland while touring Kamloops.
“It was a once and a lifetime experience for them. I had to hold back my emotions,” she said.
Thomas will tour the Wendy’s restaurants in Kelowna, Westbank and Penticton Wednesday.
Large crowds are expected at the Vernon Wendy’s during the fundraiser.
“It’s morphed into a community event and Wendy’s is just the caretaker of it,” said Tietzen.
It’s anticipated that on Wednesday, Dreamlift Day will surpass the $1 million cumulative fundraising total since it started in 1995.
“We’re amazed at how much this has grown,” said Tietzen, pointing out that $10,000 was collected the first year.