Restoring All Things

Dave Thomas’ Passion for Adoption Lives On At Wendy’s

Corporations have recently been supporting Planned Parenthood, the pro-homosexual organization Human Rights Campaign, and other progressive and often anti-Christian causes.

That’s why it’s so refreshing – one might even say redemptive – to hear about the quiet work of fast-food giant Wendy’s and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Together, they have been powerful forces for adoption in this country for nearly 30 years.

The issue was close to the heart of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas. He was adopted as a child, and that experience made him a strong advocate for adoption. Thomas was also for many years the very public face of his restaurant chain, appearing in more than 800 commercials. He would often say, in private meetings and in public appearances, “Without adoption, Wendy’s wouldn’t be here.” That slogan is still sometimes printed on Wendy’s soft drink cups as a way of promoting adoption.

Thomas’ activism went well beyond his corporate boundaries. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed Thomas chairman of a national adoption awareness campaign called “Adoption Works … For Everyone.”

Though Thomas died in 2002, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which he founded, continues to provide grants that raise awareness and make adoption easier and more affordable. To date, the “Wendy’s Wonderful Kids” program, just one of the Foundation’s initiatives, has resulted in more than 8000 adoptions. The Foundation also provides funding for adoption agencies to make them more effective at moving children – especially teenagers, siblings, and special needs kids – out of foster care and into permanent homes. That funding exceeded $30-million in 2018 alone.

“Every child deserves a permanent home and loving family,” Thomas said. “Having a family means there are people who care about you and who will always be there for you. Adoption is a great way to create or add to a family. There are so many children in America waiting to be adopted.”

In 2018, Wendy’s launched an initiative called “Cause Cups,” which featured a code on the outside of each cup. Wendy’s customers could scan the code to donate $5 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Wendy’s will match the first $500,000 in donations.

Dave Thomas’ passion for adoption was also rooted in his Christian faith, especially in the teaching that all humans are made in the image of God and have inherent value and dignity.

In 1996, Dave Thomas gave the commencement address at Hillsdale College, where he also served on the board of directors. He told the graduates, “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’”

Dave Thomas died nearly 20 years ago. Wendy’s has changed corporate owners a couple of times. Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of his legacy is that the company’s activism for adoption continues even today, especially in an era of political correctness when corporations often abandon the values that made them successful and chase social engineering trends. The pro-family Parents Television Council named Wendy’s a “Best TV Advertiser” in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2016 for advertising mostly on programs designed for the entire family. (Though in a spirit of fairness, we should note that the PTC named Wendy’s to its “Worst TV Advertiser List” in 2017.)

But on the adoption issue, Wendy’s has remained strong. Rita Soronen, the CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation, told Decision Magazine that far from abandoning Dave Thomas’ commitment to adoption, the company is increasing its commitment. “For the past four to five years now, we have scaled Wendy’s Wonderful Kids across Ohio,” she said. “We’ve seen more than 330 adoptions finalized across the state. We know that it’s about $3 million a year to keep this program scaled in Ohio. Since we’ve had the program in Ohio, we’ve saved the state $64 million.

“We’re saving children’s lives, and we’re saving critical resources at the state and county level. It’s that one-two punch that makes sense.”

 

Warren Cole Smith is the Vice-President of Mission Advancement for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

This article is one in a series based on the ideas in the book Restoring All Things:  God’s Audacious Plan To Change The World Through Everyday People by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet.  To see all the articles in this series, click here.  If you know of an individual or ministry that might make a good “Restoring All Things” profile, please email wsmith@colsoncenter.org
Image: The Dave Thomas Foundation website 

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