The products and services mentioned below were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Simplemost may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.
McDonald’s drive-thru workers see hundreds of customers a day and stay busy on any normal day. But recently, 15-year-old Sydney Raley’s normal shift at the Eden Prairie, Minnesota, restaurant took an unexpected turn.
On the afternoon of Dec. 15, Raley worked during the packed lunch rush, the time of day when cars constantly stream through the drive-thru. It was a normal day, she told KARE 11 News. But amid the rush, one of the customers she saw at the window caught her eye — Raley could tell something wasn’t right with the driver, and the passenger looked shaken up.
“I noticed that she was coughing profusely and her daughter just had this look on her face like sheer terror,” Raley told KARE 11. She realized the driver was choking.
“Just seeing that visceral reaction I knew we need to act fast.”
In a flash, Raley jumped out of the drive-thru window to get the driver as fast as possible. Using the training she’d had four years earlier, during a Red Cross class for babysitters, she got the woman out of the car, told the daughter to call 911, and started to perform the Heimlich maneuver. However, due to her size, she needed some assistance. She asked a man waiting for his food in a nearby car to help, which he did.
“It could’ve ended a lot worse but I am super thankful for that bystander who helped so much,” Raley told KARE 11 News. “Because I am decent at first aid, but if it weren’t for him and our efforts together, it could’ve ended so much worse.”
Fortunately, the woman was saved, and police responded to the scene shortly afterward. As a thank you, the two police officers on duty gave Raley $100 as part of the police department’s Cops & Cash for the Holidays program, an initiative that gives each officer $50 cash from the Crime Prevention Fund to share with residents who make a positive difference in the community. Each of the officers at the scene gave their portion of the funds to Raley for her heroic efforts.
“We’re very proud of Sydney,” Sgt. Scott Middlestatdt said in a statement. “She’s a great example of how all of us — no matter our age or position — can make a difference in our communities.”
News of Raley’s lifesaving effort got all the way to the president of McDonald’s Joe Erlinger, who shared his congratulations on Twitter and called her a hero.
To our Minnesota crew member, Sydney Raley: You are a hero.
Thank you for your quick-thinking and life-saving actions. We are incredibly proud to have you in our McFamily.https://t.co/kGji3EgyoQ
— Joe Erlinger (@ErlingerJoe) December 21, 2021
Raley’s parents told KARE 11 News that while they are proud of their daughter for her actions, they aren’t surprised by her ability to remember details like her training from four years ago. Raley’s parents said she is “gifted with a brilliant mind.”
“I always tell her she has a gift because she’s autistic,” said Raley’s dad, Tom. “She can remember anything — do anything. It’s crazy.”
You can watch Raley tell her story thanks to a YouTube video shared by Kare 11.
Congratulations to this helpful and brave young woman!