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SONIC Drive-In Team Supports Local Community Hit by Kansas Tornado

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By Kendra Rhim

When Tyler Tilton, General Manager of SONIC #3988, learned that the recent Kansas tornado hit nearby elementary school Prairie Creek, he knew his team needed to do something to bring joy to the teachers and students.

Every year, teachers at Prairie Creek place drink orders at SONIC #3988 in Andover in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week.

“The Friday night before Teacher Appreciation Week, a tornado came through and hit Prairie Creek Elementary,” Tyler explained. “The teachers had already sent in their drink orders. I immediately went to my supervisor because I knew we needed to do something nice for them. The drinks should be free.”

On Friday, April 29, an EF-3 tornado swept through Andover, Kansas, destroying and causing severe damage to hundreds of buildings in its path, including Prairie Creek Elementary. Tornadoes are measured by an Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale to indicate severity. An EF-3 tornado is the fourth category of six, with winds ranging from 158-206 MPH.

Tyler enlisted the help of his supervisor, Sarah Downey, and the pair loaded approximately 100 drinks in Tyler’s car and drove them to the teachers’ temporary “school” location.

sonic team members standing near trunk of vehicle filled with drinks for teachers affected by kansas tornado

 “Growing up, my parents always put a big emphasis on the importance of school,” Tyler shared. “I have an incredible amount of respect for teachers and everything they do. I wanted to spark joy and make their day a little better. Anytime we have the opportunity to make someone’s day better, we try our best to do that.”

sonic team members preparing drinks for teachers affected by kansas tornado

“Tyler has an incredible passion for SONIC. He understands that his role as a General Manager is so much more than selling burgers and fries,” said Sarah Downey. “He inspires others to be their very best every day, and he’s always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. Tyler is a firm believer in taking great care of his team and his community to truly create an oasis of surprise and delight in the Andover community.”

But Tyler and his team didn’t stop with the drinks for teachers. When the Andover community came together to help with the clean-up efforts after the tornado, SONIC #3988 also provided lunch to the hard-working volunteers.

“We really wanted do something nice for the people helping,” Tyler said. “We delivered hot dogs, corndogs, and tater tots to the church where the clean-up was being coordinated.”

sonic team member holding tray of food to deliver to volunteers helping with cleanup after kansas tornado

Although many of the end-of-year activities were cancelled due to the tornado, the Prairie Creek faculty still found a way to host their end-of-year field day for students. Tyler and his team donated another 600 drinks and water bottles to quench students’ thirst.

“We have a good team around us,” Tyler said. “The only reason we were able to make any of these donations is because we have an awesome team that’s willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.”