EVERETT — For Buddy Burger’s one-year anniversary, owner Chad Mckenzie wanted to do something special — but not for his business.
He Googled important causes and organizations in Snohomish County — somewhere he could drive his food trailer to — and landed on Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center. The Everett nonprofit happened to be planning a fundraising event in April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and they needed a food vendor. Buddy Burger quickly volunteered to partner with the organization and donate its sales during the event.
On April 23, Dawson Place closed off part of Hoyt Avenue for the Super Kids Community Resource Fair. More than 20 organizations came out to celebrate the power of one’s voice.
“For us, it’s ‘my voice is my superpower’ in all aspects of the term: Their voice is a superpower for children who can’t speak up, for a teen who knows their best friend may be going through something and is too afraid to speak up,” said Fran Gatica, Dawson Place’s community engagement specialist.
The fair had a cape station where kids could decorate and wear their own capes, as well as a bouncy house, face painting area, and of course: food from Buddy Burger.
Buddy Burger sliders are dished up Saturday morning in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Buddy Burger’s menu is as straightforward as it is nostalgic, a snapshot of Mckenzie’s childhood spent riding his bike to In-N-Out Burger and hanging with friends.
Everything on the menu is under $3. Choose from fries and three burger sliders. Best Buddy has the most toppings of the three options: cheese, lettuce and top secret Buddy sauce. That’s it.
Mckenzie said many people ask for the recipe, and some have even lied about their kids’ allergies to find out the ingredients. (Just so you know: This Plankton-level tactic will get you nowhere.)
Buddy Burger, like many young businesses, didn’t turn a profit in its first year. That didn’t stop Mckenzie from donating about $1,200 in sales to Dawson Place during Saturday’s fundraiser.
“The whole purpose was to raise awareness, which I definitely think we accomplished,” Mckenzie said.
Kimi Nolte receives her order from the Buddy Burger food trailer Saturday morning in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Dawson Place is the only child advocacy center in Snohomish County. Gatica said they see about 22 new kids every week. That struck a chord with McKenzie.
“My dad was a horrible father. He was very abusive,” Mckenzie said. “That’s why I wanted to find an organization that helps kids, because I was raised in that kind of environment.”
At 14, Mckenzie knew he needed help. He didn’t have an organization like Dawson Place, so he turned to Yellow Pages, found a psychologist and wrote down the address. He saved his lawn mowing money for a bus ticket and a session.
He arrived and told the receptionist he needed help, with $20 worth of crumpled dollar bills in his pocket. After hearing his story, the psychologist decided to help him for the next five years. No charge.
“There’s so many kids out there who are too scared to have a voice,” Mckenzie said. “Because I had to, because I had perseverance in my heart, I was able to help myself. But that’s a very rare thing.”
Dawson Place’s infrastructure makes it so children don’t have to take a bus to the far corners of town, or leaf through Yellow Pages for needed resources.
Customers gather at the Buddy Burger food trailer Saturday morning in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
“Dawson Place is where child abuse victims and their families can come to receive all the resources that they would need during such a difficult time,” Gatica said. That includes mental health counseling, housing assistance, medical exam interviews, and legal resources like prosecutors and detectives. “We’re all under the same roof.”
Buddy Burger has always been mission-oriented, from fundraising for important causes to simply making someone smile. Mckenzie and his wife are already researching other nonprofits to support.
During Saturday’s resource fair, one of Buddy Burger’s longtime followers handed Mckenzie $300 to donate to Dawson Place.
“What you’re doing is incredible,” the man told Mckenzie, who teared up on his food truck along with his staff and family.
“That, to me, is a reward you can’t put a price on,” Mckenzie said.
For more information, visit www.dawsonplace.org and buddyburger.net.