(KFVS) - More than 38,300 students throughout Arkansas, southern Illinois and eastern Missouri are helping make a difference by collecting spare change to kick off the 20th-annual Pasta for Pennies Program.
The program is presented by Olive Garden and benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Last year, students in Arkansas, southern Illinois and eastern Missouri raised $109,147 to support LLS. In 2013, students nationwide collected $10 million, bringing the total amount collected since the program's inception to more than $80 million. Spare change raised through Pasta for Pennies helps support the mission to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients and improve the quality of life for patients and their loved ones.
During a three-week period in the school year, students in first through 12th-grade from more than 88 schools throughout Arkansas, southern Illinois and eastern Missouri will participate in Pasta for Pennies by filling collection jars and boxes in their classrooms with spare change. The top fundraising class at each participating school will receive a pasta party from their local Olive Garden restaurant.
"The commitment that these students have to the Pasta for Pennies program is outstanding," said Debbie Kersting, executive director for the LLS Gateway Chapter. "It is through their efforts and generous donations that we continue to advance our goal: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families."
To help kick off Pasta for Pennies, local Olive Garden restaurants host lunches for representatives from participating schools. Olive Garden also provides marketing support and materials for 43 participating LLS chapters, including the Gateway Chapter.
"The spare change that these students collect makes a huge difference in so many lives," said Grace Chiang, Olive Garden senior vice president of operations. "With the passionate participation of all the students, teachers and parents, we are confident that Pasta for Pennies will have another successful year supporting LLS and its mission."
For more information on LLS, you can click here to visit them online.