Adopting a Giving Back Mindset: Wendy's founder Dave Thomas started his Foundation for Adoption in 1992. New Chair, Mary Schell, takes a role that fits her passion for community service and social justice for children.

Author:Parker, Andrew

Many of the widely-held myths and assumptions about adoption simply aren't true. For example, foster care adoption normally costs little to nothing. Individuals over 55 years old can provide a healthy and loving environment for a foster child, despite many Americans believing that this isn't the case. These are the types of misconceptions that the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and its new Chair, Mary Schell, seek to change.

After working for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Schell was presented with a rare opportunity in the late 1990s to start a government relations department from scratch at iconic fast-food restaurant brand Wendy's International. She jumped at the chance to work with company founder Dave Thomas, a longtime member of the International Franchise Association. Thomas encouraged Schell to join the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption's Board of Trustees in 2001.

Early this year, the Foundation's Board elected Scheli its new Chair, along with Vice-Chair Todd Penegor, Wendy's President and CEO. Schell also serves as Chief Public Affairs Officer for Wendy's.

Through programs and strategic awareness efforts, the Foundation addresses the needs of children in foster care waiting to be adopted, while fast-tracking the adoption process for the longest-waiting children. Wendy's founder played a key role in the Foundation until his death in 2002, and his impact lives on. "He understood the role government plays in the life--and future--of children waiting to be adopted from foster care," said Schell. Getting involved with the Foundation, she continued, was a chance to "bring together my experience in political advocacy with a cause our brand enthusiastically embraces."

A mother of two sons, Schell said being a parent "reminds you how vulnerable children are, and how fleeting childhood is." Thomas was impatient with the slow-moving government systems that often impede the foster care adoption process--a concern shared by Schell. He used his considerable public persona and resources to change things, Schell said, and his legacy of giving back still inspires the Wendy's family.

Schell's goals for the Foundation include bolstering its signature program, Wendy's Wonderful Kids, which issues grants for social work professionals to receive specialized training in an evidence-based, child-focused recruitment model. Several U.S. states are on board to make this model their official approach to adoption, and the Foundation has an ambitious...

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