Student athletes, coaches, and staff serve burgers, fries, and plenty of smiles
Fifth-year men’s basketball player Mike Zayonc (North Vancouver, BC) finished his shift and walked out, all smiles, to answer a few questions for the media. Working the Frosty machine most of his shift, he was happy to have taken part yet again in one of the more enriching aspects of his student athlete career.
“Everyone working today had a smile on their face, so I’m really happy that I did it,” said Zayonc.
Giving back is core to UBC Okanagan’s vision of student athletes who compete and learn as part of the Heat varsity experience. On Wednesday the Heat once again gave back to the community as part of the department’s vision to ‘better the world in which it operates’ when it participated in the annual Wendy’s Dreamlift fundraiser. The event is one of the biggest yearly efforts that Heat athletics undertakes towards that goal.
Players from each of the Heat varsity teams showed up for two-hour shifts throughout the day at one of three Wendy’s locations in Rutland, Kelowna, and West Kelowna.
Some of the players are returning veterans to the heat of the kitchen, while others were first- timers.
“I actually work at a kitchen in Vernon, and I used to work at McDonalds, so I was kind of used to it,” said first-year men’s soccer forward Enzo Paal (Coldstream, BC). Awkwardly handling the burger grill, he added with a grin and a chuckle, “but I lost it.”
Zayonc red- shirted last season, so this was his second go-round with the Dreamlift activities. Still, life in the kitchen was a little difficult to grasp for some, as he added “It was a lot more work than you think it is because there are a lot of things you need to grab.”
Shifts would run a fairly standard course, with the athletes and other Kelowna volunteers and ‘celebrities’ settling into various stations such as serving customers at the front counter or drive thru, or working at several cooking stations in the kitchen.
“I started out helping at the window, handing out food and drinks,” said graduating women’s soccer player Ashley Albores (Spring, Texas).
“I started doing chili, and poutine, and then did Frosty’s and shakes as well,” said sophomore men’s soccer player Tanner Brydges (Drayton Valley, AB). “I picked it up pretty quickly. I had a good time.”
Paal could not help but poke a little fun at his teammate Brydges, saying a little tongue-in-cheek that “I don’t think Tanner knows what he’s really doing.”
“We do the occasional yell back and forth,” Brydges would add.
This is the fifth year that the Heat has taken part as volunteers in the annual Dreamlift fundraiser. It is an experience that many of the players admit they treasure when they walk away after a shift.
“I feel pretty good,” said Brydges, “it’s a good cause and I enjoy it. Everyone here is really friendly, and it was good.”
“At the drive thru there were people handing over $50 and $20 and saying ‘keep the change,’ so it was really awesome to say thank you and to be a part of that,” added Albores.
“It feels great, it’s great to help give back to the community and it’s definitely for a good cause,” Zayonc said.
By the end of the day more than 50 student athletes from eight varsity teams, including Heat staff members, coaches, and administrators put in a two-hour shift. After five years of being part of the initiative, some UBC Okanagan 250 student athletes have volunteered close to 500 hours for Wendy’s Dreamlift.
With restaurants from Kelowna, West Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon, Penticton, and Salmon Arm participating, the event raises funds for the Sunshine Foundation of Canada: Dreams for Kids, which is a program that sends a planeload of children with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illnesses to Disneyland for a magical day.
All net profits, sales, and ownership, management, and staff wages are donated to support the cause. This year Wendy’s raised $108,610, just shy of last year’s record of $115,027. In the past 20 years more than $1.3 million has been raised to put smiles on planeloads of children.