COLUMBUS, Ohio, Oct. 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- White Castle, America's first fast-food hamburger chain, has been part of American culture for 95 years. Its passionate fan base, affectionately known as Cravers, are loyal, dedicated, and will do almost anything to satisfy their craving for Sliders. In 2001, White Castle created the Cravers Hall of Fame, an honorary club that recognizes its most ardent fans.
For the past year, White Castle customers from across the country have submitted personal, funny and heartfelt stories for a chance to be inducted into the Cravers Hall of Fame. After reading and judging almost 1,000 entries, White Castle selected 14 loyal Cravers from across the U.S. Each member was formerly inducted into the 16th annual White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the home office in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, October 11.
"White Castle is always touched by the unique and creative memorable moments our Cravers have participated in over the years," said Jamie Richardson, White Castle vice president. "Many of them tell us stories about growing up with our brand and how it has been a staple in their lives, whether it's making their very own White Castle costume, celebrating wedding anniversaries or just simply passing the passion for White Castle on from one generation to the next."
The judges set criteria to evaluate each story based on the following: brand loyalty, creative presentation, originality and magnitude of the Crave. To date, more than 200 inductees have been honored with this distinguished award. In 2002, White Castle added the "Craver in Extremis" category to recognize public figures, celebrities and pop icons, including Alice Cooper, John Boehner, Kal Penn and John Cho, who had publicly shown their love of White Castle.
The Class of 2016 inductees includes:
- Larry McLaughlin, Detroit, Michigan – "Spring Break Crave" When Larry McLaughlin was a college student in 1988, he and a friend headed south for spring break in Daytona Beach, Florida. With little money for food, the pair took 100 frozen Sliders and a microwave oven on the trip, certain they could each subsist on five a day. They ended up selling most of the burgers to hungry spring breakers, earning them money and McLaughlin a spot in White Castle's 16th annual Cravers Hall of Fame class.
- Adam Schindler, Detroit, Michigan – "White Castle Man at the Fortress of Slidertude" Adam Schindler is a long-time fan of White Castle. His passion for the brand runs deep, and several years ago, he created a White Castle-themed superhero costume for Halloween. Schindler's "White Castle Man" costume features a long-sleeve white body suit emblazoned with the White Castle logo, a white cap, royal blue socks and a royal blue brief complete with a utility belt of Slider boxes. A year after he created the costume, Schindler entered – and won – a costume contest that White Castle was sponsoring.
- Michael DeFelice, Kansas City, Missouri – "Crave Case over Briefcase" DeFelice's love of White Castle began in the early 90s, after he saw a commercial advertising a kids' meal that came with an inflatable Godzilla toy. Today, DeFelice travels frequently for work, but he's strategic when it comes to planning his trips, making sure he frequently visits cities where White Castle restaurants are located. When he travels for work, DeFelice spends his $35 daily food stipend on a Crave Case for dinner. He still misses his Godzilla toy he received in his White Castle kids meal many years ago, but he says he has an extensive collection of cardboard Crave Case souvenirs to remind him of where he's been.
- Mark Klein, Monroe Township, New Jersey – "Spreading the Crave" Mark Klein has been a devoted fan of White Castle since he was a child in the 1950s growing up in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, Klein loved going to White Castle with his parents and sister. Getting the little square hamburgers for lunch or before a N.Y. Mets game was always a treat. As an adult, he introduced his two daughters to White Castle, and they also became hooked on the restaurant's famous Sliders. Now living in a retirement community, Klein created a "Seniors White Castle Club." The 25 members visit the White Castle in East Brunswick, New Jersey, at least twice a month.
- Russ Axelrod, Las Vegas, Nevada – "A Slider to Lean On" When Russ Axelrod's college girlfriend broke up with him, the only thing that could mend his broken heart was a trip to his beloved White Castle for a sack of Sliders. Axelrod has been a devoted fan of White Castle since he was a child growing up in the Bayside neighborhood of Queens, New York.
"A sack of White Castles was the only thing that brought me true happiness in my adolescent years," he wrote in his Cravers Hall of Fame submission. Axelrod went to college at the University of Maryland, which didn't have any nearby White Castles. When his girlfriend broke up with him, Axelrod realized it was "a bad time not to have my crave crutch." Thankfully, Axelrod had a friend who came to his rescue and surprised him with an 8-hour round trip to the closest White Castle, where they both indulged their Crave for a "sack of happiness."
- Stacey Parrinello and her sister, Mel Burrows, Manalapan, New Jersey – "Let's Treat Ourselves" Stacey Parrinello, a woman from Manalapan, New Jersey, paid tribute to her late sister Mel Burrows' memory with a custom made White Castle cremation urn. Mel was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2015, and as a special treat after her treatments, she and Stacey would sneak out of the hospital and pay a visit to their local Castle. "Let's Treat Ourselves," became the catch phrase of the sisters special trips and is prominently featured on the urn.
"It might seem a bit silly to some people, but White Castle provided a sense of normalcy during Mel's treatments. And that was a true gift, because those days were difficult on all of us," said Stacey. "The time we spent together at White Castle is something I'll always cherish and look back on fondly, because I loved that Mel was able to find such joy in one of life's simple pleasures. The White Castle urn is a way I can honor her and cherish some of the last memories we shared together."
- Tim and Tam Tucker, Louisville, Kentucky – "Love & Sliders" Tim and Tam Tucker's love affair with White Castle started around the same time as their love affair with each other. When they started dating, the couple would take a city bus to the nearest White Castle, pick up a sack of 10 or 12 Sliders, and head to their favorite location to enjoy them. They still maintain this special tradition, despite the fact that Tim's losing his memory to Lewy Body Dementia.
Tam married the love of her life when she wed Tim in 1982. Once married, they continued the ritual they started when they were dating, heading to White Castle on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. They'd share a pack of 12 sliders, some with extra pickles, some with just ketchup, some with just mayo and some with just mustard. They even got into the habit of celebrating Valentine's Day and their wedding anniversary at White Castle.
Today, White Castle is one of the few things that brings joy to Tim. Diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia six years ago, Tim doesn't remember much, but he knows Tam and he knows his Sliders.
- Flavy Buster, Farmington, Indiana – "Community Craver" A friend nominated Buster for his dedication to raising money for White Castle's annual Autism Speaks fundraiser in 2015 and 2016, and for his commitment and loyalty to the brand.
Buster has visited White Castle regularly since 2015. In 2015 and 2016, Buster personally donated $2,000, in memory of his late wife, to White Castle's Autism Speaks campaign. He also went door to door to friends and local businesses raising donations.
- Donna Bazzell, Louisville, Kentucky – "Just What the Doctor Didn't Order" Before her scheduled tonsillectomy, Bazzell was given strict orders to not eat anything for at least 12 hours. But when she stopped at her local White Castle to get a drink on the way to the hospital, she couldn't resist the smell of Sliders and grilled onions.
"I thought one wouldn't hurt, so I purchased a Slider and quickly ate it before returning to the car," said Bazzell. "I confessed to the doctor that I had eaten something before my surgery, and they weren't very happy with me. My tonsillectomy was cancelled for that day and had to be rescheduled. I felt guilty, but as a White Castle fan, I smiled remembering how good that Slider was. It was well worth it."
- Jade Kozup, Atlanta, Georgia – "Crave Case Carry On" Kozup's love for White Castle Sliders began in 2001 when she was living in Las Vegas. Her sister, who was interning in Indiana at the time, picked up a Crave Case at the local White Castle and flew it to Kozup in her carry on bag. This was their tradition.
Throughout the years, the sisters moved to different cities, but their love of Sliders remained strong.
"My sister travels a lot for work, and anytime she is in a city with White Castle, she would bring Crave Cases home for me. I'd do the same for her," said Kozup. "I went to a bridal shower in Columbus, Ohio and picked up two Crave Cases and brought them with me on the 13-hour drive back home."
- Joseph Gest, Converse, Texas – "40 Years and Still Craving" Gest's love for White Castle Sliders began in his hometown of Midlothain, Illinois when he was just seven years old. After enlisting in the Air Force at the age of 18, Gest was taken away from his beloved White Castle restaurant, but that didn't stop him from finding creative ways to satisfy his Crave throughout the years.
"I was living in Columbus, Mississippi from 1997 to 1999," said Gest. "I was dating my now wife at the time, and she got off the plane with a sack of White Castle Sliders in her hand. That's when I knew she was the one."
- Andy Balterman, Cincinnati, Ohio – "Crave Collector" Andy Balterman, a retired librarian from Cincinnati, has an extensive library of White Castle memorabilia. From his "I CRAVE" vanity license plate, to his vast collection of White Castle trinkets, it's no secret that Balterman is a fan of the steam-grilled Sliders. He prefers his with cheese and extra onions.
"I have t-shirts and some real old mugs and a winyl keep-things-cool-or-hot lunch bag," said Balterman. "Late at night one night I stole a heavy plastic White Castle sign from the demolition site of a White Castle restaurant that was being rebuilt."
About White Castle®
White Castle, America's first fast-food hamburger chain based in Columbus, Ohio, is celebrating 95 years as a family-owned business. The company was founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921 serving The Original Slider® which was named the most influential burger of all time in 2014 by Time. All White Castle Sliders are made from 100 percent USDA inspected beef. Today White Castle owns and operates nearly 400 restaurants in 13 states and has two dedicated Crave Mobiles that attended hundreds of events in 2015. White Castle's commitment to maintaining the highest quality products extends to the company owning and operating its own meat processing plants and bakeries as well as three frozen food processing plants. The retail division markets White Castle signature products in grocery, warehouse and convenience stores across the United States and in a growing number of international locations, including military PX's around the world.
WhiteCastle.com is a culture center for Cravers, the chain's loyal and passionate fan base, connecting like-minded Slider enthusiasts from around the globe in a social media setting. For more information on White Castle and to see the Craver Hall of Fame, visit whitecastle.com.
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SOURCE White Castle