Rebecca McKeegan, 21, has awakened bright and early to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with her family for as long as she can remember. She loves the floats, the performances of songs from Broadway plays and seeing how each parade is different from the last, which has made the event a longstanding tradition in her home, as it is in homes across the country.
But this year’s parade was to be particularly special for McKeegan, because she was scheduled to take part in it, as part of the McDonald’s Thank You Crew program, helping to wrangle the iconic Ronald McDonald float. The program honors McDonald’s employees who go above and beyond their work duties to put a smile on customers’ faces.
McKeegan, who has lived in Oceanside for 17 years and worked at the McDonald’s in town for four years, said that on every shift, she “makes sure that the customer is always feeling validated and feeling welcome.”
She does that, she added, by “making sure I know the customer’s order is sufficient and proper. I’m always listening to the customer’s order.” She also goes above and beyond by getting to know many customers by name and their usual order, making the beginning, middle or end of their day easier. “I feel like it’s very important to know the customer’s name,” she said. “I’ve really made great connections with customers, and I know every single customer that comes in the morning.”
And those customers have told her how much they appreciate the personal touch. “Every customer that comes back tells me, ‘It makes me feel super special to know that you know my order’ and it makes them feel so important. And it makes me so happy that I can make them feel like they have an important place to go to every morning that their orders are going to be taken care of.”
So, when McKeegan was chosen to represent the Oceanside McDonald’s beneath the Ronald McDonald float, she enthusiastically agreed. “I am super, super excited,” she said. “I feel so honored and so special to know that I get to represent my town, and that I get to be on TV, and I’m just really, really excited and very, very happy that I got chosen.”
Every Thanksgiving morning, her family watches the parade together from start to finish, a tradition they “can’t miss,” she said.
What McKeegan loves most is how it stays the same, yet changes each year. “It’s new every year, which makes it more fun,” she said, “and one of my favorite aspects of the parade is to see what Broadway show they bring.”
Thanksgiving is a time for feeling grateful for what you have, remembering the past and thinking about the future, but most important, McKeegan said, “bringing together family and appreciating the life that we have and the people that are in our lives.”
“You never know exactly what’s going to happen to you,” she said, “so you just have to be thankful for everything that you have and everything that you’ve grown up with. And Thanksgiving is a really big part of my life, because it makes me appreciate more, not only every day, but I also appreciate everything that I live for. But it makes me appreciate the people that stand behind me and support me in everything.”
She said she was grateful to McDonald’s for the chance of a lifetime. “They treat my wonderfully,” McKeegan said. “I can’t complain.” The staff, she said, does “a wonderful job of just bringing the best out of their people. Even in the (most) stressful and most hard times, you still get appreciated for all your dedication and your hard work.”
In total, 20 to 25 McDonald’s employees in the metropolitan area were invited to take part as float wranglers.