An Eden Prairie McDonald’s employee was honored at the store Wednesday, Dec. 29, for her quick thinking in jumping out the drive-through window to help a choking female customer.
On a break from work and with her family in attendance, Sydney Raley, 15, of Edina, stood in her McDonald’s uniform as Paul Ostergaard, the restaurant’s owner and operator, praised her decisive jump into action.
During the short recognition ceremony, Ostergaard recounted what happened while the Edina High School sophomore worked the drive-through at the end of her shift on Dec. 18.
After being handed a food bag, he said a customer put a piece of food in her mouth and began to choke.
When Sydney saw the woman struggling, she remembered the first-aid skills she learned in a babysitting class several years before.
“You have to hear the story to believe it I guess because (Sydney) jumped out of the drive-through window,” Ostergaard said. “That you have to see. She’s smaller than me. I couldn’t do that.”
Ostergaard said Sydney then helped the woman out of her car and enlisted the aid of another customer. The two performed the Heimlich maneuver on the woman, dislodging a chicken nugget from her throat.
“The lady was fine,” he said. “It could have been much worse. We’re very proud and pleased that Sydney took action when she did, evaluated the situation in a matter of seconds, and knew what to do.”
Ostergaard read a statement addressed to Sydney from the McDonald Corp’s Denver field office. “Your bravery inspires us to always act with compassion for others,” part of it stated.
He then presented Sydney with a large basket of candy and an envelope containing a check for her efforts. Without telling her the amount, he handed the envelope to Sydney to open.
When she saw the check, her voice bounced joyously in genuine awe for this late Christmas gift.
“$250! Oh my gosh!” she said. “Thank you so, so much.”
Sydney, who likes to draw, plans to use that money to start an online Etsy store to sell her artwork.
(Toys for Toys received the $100 two Eden Prairie Police officers gave Sydney for her good deed. Officers hand out that money as part of the department’s “Cops & Cash for the Holidays” program sponsored by the Eden Prairie Crime Prevention Fund.)
“I can not be more grateful for all the love and gratitude that you have shown,” Sydney said. “It’s honestly mind-blowing.”
Sydney’s story has gained national attention, inspiring much praise for her in many unexpected ways.
For instance, her mother Stephanie said Sydney has received mail at home and the Eden Prairie McDonald’s from people all across the U.S.
Some of the mail included money.
“(It’s) just telling her how proud they are of her,” Stephanie said. “I think that’s the coolest part, in that people are so kind. You don’t see that in the world anymore.”
The Eden Prairie City Council will honor Sydney at a February meeting. Stephanie said the City of Edina is considering doing something, too.