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UA: Success Story: Dave Thomas

Leslie Brown

Dave Thomas had a rough start in life. He never knew his birth mother, and his adoptive mother died when he was five.

He also lost two stepmothers by the time he was ten. A loving grandmother with whom he spent summers, became a huge influence on his life.

Dave Thomas served in the army during the Korean War; when he came back, he played a part in turning around some struggling Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises for which he made a tidy profit.

Complaining that he could not find a decent hamburger in Columbus Ohio (meaning obviously they didn’t have a Whataburger…) he opened the first Wendy’s in 1969 named for the youngest of his five children.

After some slipping sales, in 1982, Dave took on a more active role in the company:

Thomas began to visit franchises and espouse his hardworking, so-called “mop-bucket attitude.” In 1989, he took on an even more important role, as the television spokesman for the company in a series of fantastically successful commercials.(1)

Not content with just financial success Dave began to “walk the walk” he so passionately believed in by becoming a huge advocate for children in the promotion of both foster care and adoption. Rough starts in life can make you “bitter” or “better”; the choice is yours.


As of January, 2014, we have exceeded 4,000 finalized adoptions of children served by Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters, and have served more than 10,000! These are the children who many considered to be unadoptable. Read on to see how the program works.(2)

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids is making a difference for thousands of children for adoption—one child at a time. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption awards grants to public and private adoption agencies to hire adoption professionals who implement proactive, child-focused recruitment programs targeted exclusively on moving America’s longest-waiting children from foster care into adoptive families.

Recently released research from a five-year evaluation of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids shows that children referred to the program are up to three times more likely to get adopted. Read the full research results.(2)


dave thomas

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