Olive Garden kicks off Pasta For Pennies

Olive Garden kicks off 13th-annual Pasta For Pennies benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 9 /PRNewswire/ --

Two million elementary, middle and high school students in more than 2,700 schools across the country will soon begin collecting spare change for Olive Garden's Pasta For Pennies, a program benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's School & Youth campaign.

Since the campaign's inception 13 years ago, Olive Garden's Pasta For Pennies has raised more than $31 million, thanks to the efforts of students, parents, teachers and school administrators across the nation. During a three-week period between January and May, students bring spare change to their classrooms. The money raised through student contributions supports leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research and patient services. The class in each school that raises the most money receives a pasta party delivered to their classroom and served by their local Olive Garden.

"Pasta For Pennies last year raised a record-breaking $4.2 million solely through student contributions," said Dwayne Howell, the Society's CEO and president. "Each penny contributed helps advance the Society's mission of finding cures for blood cancers and improving the quality of life for patients and their families."

In addition to serving a pasta party at each school, Olive Garden also hosts kick-off lunches in the restaurant for representatives of participating schools. To ensure a successful fundraising campaign, Olive Garden also provides marketing support and materials for more than 45 of the Society's chapters across the country.

"The students who participate in Pasta For Pennies are passionate about supporting families and classmates in communities across the country. They are learning at a young age how important and fulfilling community service can be," Olive Garden President Dave Pickens said. "We look forward to another year of extraordinary results for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and in the lives of the people they serve."

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, headquartered in White Plains, NY, is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. The Society's mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Since its founding in 1949, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has invested more than $483 million for research specifically targeting leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Last year alone, the Society made 4.2 million contacts with patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals through services provided at its home office and by its 66 chapters in the United States and Canada. For more information about the Society, visit http://www.LLS.org.

Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with 595 restaurants, more than 70,000 employees and $2.6 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI), the world's largest casual dining company in sales and market share. For more information, visit Olive Garden's Web site at http://www.olivegarden.com.

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