How a Frosty Saved My Sons’ Halloween
Editor's Note: The Square Deal welcomes Wal Ozello, Manager of Culture and Communications. A seventeen-year Wendy's veteran, his deep passion for the brand radiates in everything he does. Wal is responsible for sharing Wendy's history, values and culture. His love of all things Wendy’s, especially Frosty treats, is very much a family affair. In this blog, Wal shares a personal story of how a Frosty helped make trick-or-treating safer for his kids.
What do Luke Skywalker, a Roman Senator in a toga, and Captain Hook have in common? I’ve dressed up as each of them for Halloween.
The Best Holiday Of The Year…
While some anticipate the magic of Christmas and others cherish the family time Thanksgiving brings, I prefer the freakish excitement of Halloween (cue: scary laugh).
What other holiday can you dress in some crazy outfit and go door-to-door to receive FREE candy?
My love for Halloween began as a toddler when my mom explained all about the free candy. As my friends and I got a bit older, we developed strategies to maximize our treat-or-treat adventuring and fill our pillow cases to the brim. We’d be sure our map included the houses of the families who gave out full-size candy bars opposed to fun-size.
A Family Tradition
My wife Kate loves Halloween as much as I do, and when we were blessed with children, we naturally instilled our ghoulish passion throughout the whole family. We are big believers in homemade costumes and spend weeks preparing our sons’ outfits: designing, thrifting, sewing and creating. Having a film school background, I am always on point for make-up. Not to brag, but I make a perfect Harry Potter scar with a little mascara, lipstick and hairspray for shine.
As our boys got older, Halloween became an even bigger deal. At school, they were judged not only by how awesome their costume was, but by how cool their treat was to share. Kate and I put a lot of passion into setting them up for success and enjoy every second of it.
But there was one year that all came to a screeching halt.
As Kate and I were brainstorming costume ideas: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Super Heroes…our son announced from the kitchen,
“I’m done trick-or-treating. I’m giving up on it. I can’t eat any of the gluten candy, so what’s the point?”
Sam was seven years old. He and his brother Jay had recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
Sam and Jay are among the 1% of the U.S. population with Celiac Disease, of which the recommended treatment is to maintain a gluten-free diet. Some of his friends also suffer from food allergies. In fact, one in every 13 children has some type of food allergy. Think about that for a moment…if 100 trick or treaters arrive at your house, chances are about eight of them have a food allergy. Worse yet, many people like Sam choose to completely forgo a “fun food moment” rather than be disappointed by candy or a treat they can’t eat.
Putting The Happiness Back Into Halloween
After Sam announced he was done with Halloween, I sat at my kitchen table dumbfounded as tears welled up in my eyes.
Was this really it? Were the amazing festivities of Halloween over in the Ozello household forever?
Kate and I were determined to tackle this problem and bring joy back into our sons’ favorite holiday. The solution was a Candy Auction. Every year the boys trade in their gluten candy for large gluten-free candy bars. The Kit-Kats go away and the Hershey bars come in. We also include gift cards to their favorite restaurant: Wendy’s, one of the places where they can eat safely. As you can imagine, as Manager of Culture and Communications at Wendy’s, I’m pretty passionate about our company and food. And, I’m proud of our dedication to transparency as it relates to sharing about what allergens are in our food. Yep, that was a shameless plug.
After we fixed their candy bag problem, Jay became concerned about what we were going to give out to treat-or-treaters. He wanted others to have a safe and fun Halloween.
“Dad,” he grinned, “I have a great idea! You can get the Frosty machine from work and we can serve everybody Frosty treats!”
Note: No matter what you do at Wendy’s, your children think you work in the restaurants.
There was no way I could get a Frosty machine at home – they are extremely heavy and take special electric power. Plus, it would take some serious convincing of my friends in the Culinary Department.
Instead, I got the next best thing: Frosty coupons.
Every fall, Wendy’s sells coupon booklets redeemable for a free Jr. Frosty. The big bonus is that the donations go to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. For me, it’s a win-win-win. Children in foster care get help finding loving families, my kids feel they’re doing their part to help children with Celiac and food allergies, and I get to be hero dad.
We've also started participating in FARE'S Teal Pumpkin Project. To help children with food allergies know we have an alternative treat for them, we paint a pumpkin teal and put it on our front porch. It’s a great way to show support to others who are struggling with similar issues. We have a few Wendy’s Gift Cards on hand too, which are great for children who have dairy allergies and can’t enjoy a Frosty treat.
Halloween was saved at the Ozello household, and we’ve had lots and lots of fun ever since that near tragic moment.
You might be wondering what happens to the bags and bags of gluten candy that our boys can’t eat? It finds its way to the break room on the third floor of the Wendy’s Restaurant Support Center. I guess you can say it’s a WIN for my co-workers, too.