Tony Danza helps kick off Olive Garden’s 12th Annual Pasta For Pennies fund-raiser

Students to collect spare change to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

CHICAGO—Olive Garden’s 2006 Pasta For Pennies program, benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which kicked off nationally with the help of talk show host Tony Danza and patient ambassadors of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, takes place locally from Feb. 1 through March 31.

Danza, host of the nationally syndicated The Tony Danza Show, lent his support to the 2005 Pasta For Pennies program and said he was excited to join Olive Garden in announcing the kick-off of this year’s fund-raising effort.

“I was impressed when working with these kids last year. They are so passionate about helping their communities,” said Danza. “Programs like Pasta For Pennies prove that small gifts really do add up. I’m sure with all their enthusiasm, they’ll be very successful and will add millions to what has already been raised.”

During this year’s Pasta For Pennies campaign, students in more than 20 schools in Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane and Winnebago counties will bring spare change in to their classrooms. The class in each school that collects the most money will receive a pasta party delivered to their classroom by their local Olive Garden.

The funds students raise can make a lasting impact on their friends and neighbors in need, as the money remains in each local community to support a range of services for patients of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma and their families.

“Our Pasta For Pennies program demonstrates to children that their efforts really do make a difference,” said Emily Irrer, campaign coordinator of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Illinois Chapter. “Leukemia is the No. 1 cancer killer for children and young adults under the age of 20, and that’s why programs like this are such a meaningful way for children to learn about the value of community service. Every penny really does count in the search for cures.”

Olive Garden’s Pasta For Pennies is a grassroots effort that last year raised more than $3.1 million for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through contributions from elementary, middle and high school students across the United States. Since 1994, nearly $27 million has been collected in spare change through the program.

“Initiatives like Olive Garden’s Pasta For Pennies promote the spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy,” said Dave Pickens, president of Olive Garden. “These students care so much for their local communities, and it shows in their support of this program.”

In addition to a pasta party at every participating school, nationally, Olive Garden provides meeting and marketing support to help the more than 45 participating Leukemia & Lymphoma Society chapters have successful fundraising campaigns.

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 Society has invested more than $424 million for research specifically targeting leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Last year alone, the Society made 2.5 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

Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with 568 restaurants, 70,000 employees and more than $2 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:DRI), the world’s largest casual dining company. For more information, visit Olive Garden’s Web site at

From the Jan. 18-24, 2006, issue

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