By Jordan Upton
While most Americans are familiar with Dave Thomas and recognize him as the founder of fast-food restaurant chain Wendy’s, many are unaware of his philanthropy. Thomas’ most passionate mission and the role he embraced the most was as an advocate for adoption and ensuring every child had a safe, loving, and permanent home.
Thomas was born in 1932 in Atlantic City, New Jersey and was adopted at six weeks old by Rex and Auleva Thomas. After his adoptive mother passed away when he was only five, Dave spent the majority of his childhood traveling the country with his father and spending summers with his grandmother, Minnie. Dave spent the rest of his life working in restaurants and eventually opening Wendy’s in 1969. Wendy’s would become a commercially successful restaurant and now has over 6,500 locations worldwide.
While Dave had a passion for food, his greater passion was advocating for adoption and ensuring that all children had a loving home. Thomas established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in 1992 as a national non-profit charity. It remains the only public non-profit in the United States focused exclusively on foster care adoption.
The Dave Thomas Foundation offers a variety of signature programs such as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, which awards grants to local public and private agencies who are in turn able to hire adoption professionals who are able to place children on the longest-waiting placement lists into adoptive families. Another program includes Adoption-Friendly Workplace which works to make adoption an affordable option for working parents by establishing benefits, reimbursements, and financial aid for those who wish to adopt.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has funded nearly 400 adoption centers across the United States and Canada, helped co-found National Adoption Day, and as their mission statement says, “we strive to make the world a better place through foster care adoption” because the children in foster care “deserve nothing less than our best effort”.