CRANSTON, R.I. - Clink, clank, clunk! That's the sound more than 15,000 students throughout Rhode Island will soon hear as they pour their pocket change into collection jars to support Olive Garden's 17th-annual Pasta for Pennies program benefiting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) School & Youth campaign. Last year, Olive Garden's Pasta for Pennies collected $6.1 million nationally, bringing the total amount donated since the program's inception to more than $53 million.
During a three-week period in the school year, students in first through 12th grade at 28 schools throughout Kent, Providence and Washington counties will participate in Olive Garden's Pasta for Pennies by donating spare change to fill collection jars in their classrooms. The top fundraising class at each participating school receives a pasta party from their local Olive Garden restaurant.
"Olive Garden's Pasta for Pennies motivates students to give their time and money to a great cause," said Deborah Watterson, campaign manager for the LLS Rhode Island Chapter. "We are inspired by the commitment of the students, teachers and parents who generously raised more than $59,300 last year to help advance our mission to find a cure."
Local Olive Garden restaurants help kick off area Pasta for Pennies campaigns by hosting lunches for representatives from participating schools to learn more about the program. Olive Garden also provides marketing support and materials for 42 participating LLS chapters nationally.
"Every one of our Olive Garden restaurants is committed to serving our local communities," said company president Dave Pickens. "Our Pasta for Pennies program is one way we are able to do that. The money and awareness our student participants raise for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society truly makes a difference in the lives of so many of our families, friends and neighbors."
The Leukemia & Lymphoma SocietyR (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 700 restaurants, more than 87,000 employees and $3.3 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc. the world's largest company-owned and operated full-service restaurant company. For more information, visit Olive Garden's website at www.OliveGarden.com .