Pancake partners

Illinois Kiwanians team with McDonald’s to host a milestone event.

By Lydia Johnson

Last October, the Danville Noon Kiwanis Club in Danville, Illinois, hosted its 70th Pancake Day — despite the COVID-19 pandemic threatening to thwart the platinum celebration. 

In recent years, nearly 3,500 people had participated in the all-you-can-eat event at the David S. Palmer Arena. But crowds and the coronavirus made it a no-go. That didn’t stop Mary Surprenant, the club’s president. 

Surprenant sought a new direction, hosting a pandemic-proof Pancake Day by forming a partnership with franchises of a local fast-food restaurant. Through her community connections, she was able to request help from Don and Deanna Witzel, who own and operate six McDonald’s restaurants in Vermilion County, Illinois.

“We found a way to make it work,” Surprenant says, “through the help and the generosity of sponsors and, of course, the Vermilion County McDonald’s (franchises). They could literally handle the making, the serving, the delivering — as long as we could figure out the ticket aspect of it.”

Danville Kiwanians, including members of the Golden K Kiwanis Club, sold US$6 tickets to organizations, individuals and McDonald’s customers. Over five days in mid-October, tickets were redeemed for a package of three hotcakes, a sausage patty and choice of a small drink at the Witzels’ Vermilion County McDonald’s locations. Hungry supporters could buy multiple tickets to redeem throughout the week.

Originally, the plan called for tickets to be counted at each location daily to determine the total amount the Danville Noon Kiwanis Club would pay, post-event, for the food served. Thanks to the Witzels’ generosity, however, that changed. 

“They did it at no cost for us,” Surprenant says. “After the event happened, they felt that they wanted to do even more, and we were just flattered.”

By the end of the week, more than 2,000 people had been served and $22,000 was raised through sponsorships and ticket sales. 

Those funds went back into the Danville community. This past March, 28 organizations and programs serving children received funds ranging from $250 to $2,000 at an awards ceremony.

“Especially being in a worldwide pandemic, the impact is great,” Surprenant says. “The impact will go far.”

And while $6 might not seem like much to a person craving pancakes, every donation made a difference.

“It may not seem like a lot,” she says,” but you drop it into the water and it still makes ripples.”

This story originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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