Community

Community donations provide Kyle — the Mattituck McDonald’s most popular employee — with new ride

As longtime educators in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District, Scott and Patti Verity would often be recognized around town as “the music teachers.”

Mr. Verity was a chorus instructor at Mattituck High School and Ms. Verity taught music at Cutchogue East Elementary School. Both are now retired.

“We are no longer called the music teachers,” Ms. Verity said. “We are called Kyle’s parents.”

Standing next to his mom and dad in their kitchen Friday evening, Kyle thought about his mother’s statement and said: “It’s kind of like I’m in L.A. or a TV star,” he said.

Kyle’s effusive personality and dedication to customer service has made him the most popular fast food restaurant worker on the North Fork. He’s worked at McDonald’s since 2007, when he was 16, and has approached the job each day with unbridled enthusiasm. He holds the door for customers as they walk in and remembers every face he greets.

Anyone driving along Main Road in Mattituck would recognize the familiar tricycle, with an orange flag waving in the wind, that Kyle — a Mattituck High School graduate who has autism spectrum disorder — has used to go back and forth to work over the past decade.

Andrew and Amanda Haupt, who live in Mattituck and had come to know Kyle from McDonald’s, were sitting on their porch one day last fall and were talking about him after they’d seen him riding that day.

Kyle hops aboard his new ride for the first time. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

“We basically said, we need to do something,” Mr. Haupt said. “There’s got to be an easier way.”

They started looking online at electric bikes, something that Kyle, 29, could possibly use that would be easier than peddling back and forth on the nearly five-mile round-trip from his home to McDonald’s.

After some searching, they found a model that seemed ideal for Kyle: a 500-watt electric-powered tricycle.

Mr. Haupt created a GoFundMe page to see if the community would crowdsource the $1,700 cost. It started with a single share on Facebook and it “just snowballed,” he said.

On the GoFundMe, Mr. Haupt wrote: “Kyle is truly an inspiration. He works and does the job to the fullest. He is always happy and smiling or dancing. He should be looked up to, kids and adults should take notice that not every job is perfect or fun, but it’s how you handle yourself. To make the best of everything that comes your way.”

In just one day, the GoFundMe reached its goal. Mr. Haupt even posted an update telling people no more donations were needed. But still some more came in, bringing the total to $2,175.

Mr. Haupt ordered the electric bike, using the additional money for some accessories, such as a canopy that will provide Kyle added cover during poor weather. And Mr. Haupt outfitted with the bike with lights, including a pair of bright headlights for added safety at night. He also bought Kyle a heavy duty waterproof jacket.

The new bike was outfitted with lights to make it stand out. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

The Veritys learned of the fundraising effort when Kyle’s older brother, Mark, who’s an elementary teach in the Shoreham-Wading River School District, saw the GoFundMe on social media.

Kyle said he was shocked to find out so many people were donating money on his behalf.

“I’ve never had that,” he said. “This is a first.”

Mr. Haupt placed the order in November, but the ongoing pandemic delayed shipment. The big moment finally arrived Friday evening, when Mr. Haupt backed his pickup into the Veritys’ driveway and unloaded the bike.

Kyle excitedly stood at his front door as the truck pulled in. He wasn’t 100% sure who was behind the effort, but knew he’d recognize the faces once he saw them in person.

Wearing a gray McDonald’s shirt and face mask with the famous golden arches logo, Kyle said, “I knew it!” as Ms. Haupt came to the door.

“I thought it was you!” he said.

He darted off to grab a jacket so he could go outside and see his new ride up close for the first time.

“Wow, I’m impressed,” Kyle said.

Andrew Haupt of Mattituck organized the GoFundMe. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

“The whole community chipped in and bought it for you, even people who don’t live in Southold Town anymore,” Ms. Haupt told him. “They all know you and love you from working at McDonald’s.”

Mr. Haupt gave Kyle a breakdown of how the bike operates and showed him the two small remotes that control the multi-colored lights: one on a flagpole on the back of the bike that featured an American flag and another the controls flashing lights along the back wheels and the frame.

As it has for so many other people, the pandemic has altered the workplace for Kyle. His hours were scaled back as the dining room closed. He currently works three days a week and is still brightening customers’ days as he carries out food for curbside delivery.

He had a few days to practice with the new ride to get a feel for how it operates before his next work day. And with a snowstorm due Sunday, he was eager to get that practice in right away Saturday.

Kyle and his father wheeled the new ride into the garage Friday evening, where it was parked next to his old bike. He wasn’t ready quite yet to say goodbye to it, so he explained to his father how they can bring it down to the basement for storage.

The generosity bestowed upon him made Kyle think about philanthropy. He wanted to pay it forward and begin contributing to charity himself. The Ronald McDonald House Charities, a family and children’s charity dedicated to helping sick children, immediately came to mind.

“It’s a lovely charity,” he said. “Any charity for children, adults, anything.”