ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 31, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Students across the nation are once again collecting spare change to support the 18th-annual Pasta for Pennies program presented by Olive Garden and benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) School & Youth campaign. Students donated a record $8.4 million during last year's Pasta for Pennies, to bring the total amount collected since the program's inception to more than $61 million.
During a three-week period, students in first through 12th grade at more than 7,100 schools will participate in Pasta for Pennies by donating spare change collected in special jars in their classrooms. The top fundraising class at each participating school receives a pasta party from their local Olive Garden restaurant.
"The money collected through Pasta for Pennies directly benefits leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma patients and their families," said LLS President and CEO John Walter. "I know I speak on behalf of those patients and families when I say that we appreciate the efforts of all the schools and students who make a difference in the lives of so many."
To kick off local Pasta for Pennies campaigns, Olive Garden restaurants around the country will host lunches for representatives from participating schools.
"Pasta for Pennies continues to make a significant impact on families in local communities by raising funds for cancer research," said John Caron, president of Olive Garden. "It is a credit to the students, parents and teachers who are committed to making Pasta for Pennies successful year after year."
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world and provides free information and support services. Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org or contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with more than 750 restaurants, more than 88,000 employees and more than $3 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI), the world's largest full-service restaurant operating company. In 2012, Darden was named to the FORTUNE "100 Best Companies to Work For" list for the second year in a row and is the only full-service restaurant company to ever appear on the list. Olive Garden is committed to making a difference in the lives of others in the local community. For more information, visit www.olivegarden.com.