Wendy’s franchisee Ed Anderson hit the road this week on a cross-country cycling trip with the goal of raising $1 million for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA). Anderson started his journey in his hometown of Virginia Beach and will spend the next few months pedaling to San Diego to drive awareness of foster care adoption.

Anderson got the idea for his epic fundraising ride as he was approaching his 36th anniversary with Wendy’s. The owner of 11 restaurants in Virginia felt compelled to honor the legacy of Thomas, the late Wendy’s founder who created the DFTA to help children waiting to be adopted from foster care. The DTFA’s signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, funds grants for public and private agencies to hire trained adoption recruiters whose sole focus is to find “forever families” for children who are in foster care the longest.

“Becoming a Wendy’s franchisee has given me a livelihood I never could have imagined,” Anderson said during a recent phone interview. “I wanted to give back in some small way and pay tribute to Dave’s commitment to this great cause. Every dollar I raise will hopefully enable another child to find a forever home.”

A documentary about a man who biked across America inspired Anderson to embark on a similar journey – even though he’s not an avid cyclist. “I’ve been an athlete most of my life and still compete as a runner, but I’m just now learning the bicycling piece,” he said with a laugh.

Anderson began a grueling training regimen earlier this year, logging 30 to 80 miles a day, six days a week. His busy travel schedule – and the unpredictable spring weather – tested both his self-discipline and patience.

Ed Anderson

“When you’re on the road, you either find a good stationary bike or you don’t,” he said. “And pedaling indoors for two or three hours can get pretty boring.”

His competitive spirit and, most importantly, his mission keep him motivated. During a training ride a few months ago, he passed by a Little League baseball field as parents were dropping off their kids.

“I circled back and took a video on my phone, explaining why that sight illustrates the reason I’m doing this,” Anderson recalled. “Those kids have parents who take them to practices and games and cheer them on. There are over 100,000 kids in foster care who aren’t as lucky, but equally deserving. That thought sticks in my mind a lot… and will keep me going on my ride.”

Ed Anderson

Anderson plans to average 70 to 80 miles a day despite the sweltering summer temperatures, making stops in more than 20 communities other Wendy’s franchise owners call home. Anderson’s wife will follow along by car to provide emotional support and supplies, and two of his sons – who are also part of the Wendy’s franchise family – will join him for a few legs. And as the tour's official beverage sponsor, Coca-Cola will be along for the ride to keep the crew hydrated.

Anderson hopes to complete his journey on Oct. 4 – his 59th birthday. “I hope to celebrate when my front tire touches the Pacific Ocean,” he said.

A few days later, he’ll attend the annual Wendy’s Franchisee convention in Las Vegas.

“And I can assure you I won’t be biking back,” Anderson concluded.

Follow Ed's ride across America on Facebook and Twitter, and make a donation to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption here.