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Impact

An Unexpected Friendship Led to Daniel’s Most Memorable Birthday Yet

July 24, 2019
By Raj Prashad

For most of his life, Daniel Lawrence’s birthday has been a small celebration dedicated to spending time with his family. But thanks to Michelle Lovelady, the area supervisor for SONIC franchisee Straylight LLC, Daniel’s 12th birthday will be one he’ll always remember.

Daniel, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age, visited the Calera, Alabama, SONIC when it opened in late May 2019. That’s when he met Michelle and developed an instant friendship.

“Daniel struggles with social communication, and he has difficulty making friends,” Daniel’s mother, Sherry Lawrence said. “Michelle made our first trip to SONIC so special that Daniel couldn’t wait to visit her again.”

Daniel and his mother returned to SONIC nearly every day for two weeks. With Daniel’s birthday approaching, Michelle had an idea to put his name on the marquee board. But a conversation with Sherry encouraged her to do something much bigger.

“When I talked to Sherry about Daniel’s birthday, she told me he had never celebrated with friends, and it just broke my heart,” Michelle said. “So, we decided to throw him a really big party.”

Michelle invited members of the community to celebrate Daniel’s birthday at SONIC. Franchisee Bly Gravlee helped Michelle coordinate the entire party, which included a sensory-inclusive van, a bounce house and balloons strung up around the drive-in. When the Lawrence family arrived, they were met with more than 50 new friends, dozens of presents and an afternoon filed with Daniel’s favorite SONIC menu items.

“We could never thank Michelle and Bly enough for what they have done for Daniel and our family. Because of their kindness, Daniel hopes to someday work at SONIC himself,” Sherry said.

“This is just a reminder that you never know where your next blessing will come from, and ours came from our local SONIC!”