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Strike Out ALS

September 15, 2014

By: Darden Restaurants,

Strike Out ALS

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The Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and donations for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," swept the nation this summer. As of the beginning of September, the ALS Association has received more than $100 million in donations compared to approximately $2.8 million during the same period last year.

The LongHorn Steakhouse in Tifton, Georgia, participated in the challenge in memory of Todd Cook, a dear friend and their former Managing Partner. Todd served as the Managing Partner of the Tifton LongHorn for nearly a decade. In 2013, Todd passed away from ALS. Todd spent 11 years with the LongHorn family. He started with LongHorn Steakhouse as a kitchen manager in 2000 at the Hiram, Georgia location. In 2003, he was promoted to Managing Partner of the Tifton, Georgia restaurant. Despite being diagnosed with ALS in 2009, Todd continued to work until March 2011, when he could no longer walk. In addition to his career with LongHorn, he was very involved with his daughters and their schools and was also very active in the community through organizations such as Relay for Life and the First United Methodist Men’s Group.

Todd was so passionate about giving that even after his death, many are benefiting from his generosity. All of his "ALS equipment" (speech devices, wheelchairs, lifts, and adaptive equipment) were donated to others to help them with their battle with this disease.

As a tribute to Todd, the current Tifton Managing Partner, Chris Miller, and his team participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. Before being soaked with ice water, the team challenged the LongHorn Steakhouse operations leadership team to participate in the challenge as well.

The LongHorn Steakhouse executive team was more than up for the challenge.  Valerie Insignares, President of LongHorn Steakhouse, said a few words in remembrance of Todd, and all week long, Darden Restaurant Support Center employees were encouraged to donate to the ALS Association in his memory.

But the challenge didn’t stop there. The LongHorn Steakhouse team then challenged fellow Darden executives, including the entire Olive Garden executive team. One executive even started a bidding war over who got to dump the water on him to raise additional donations.

All of the donations from our headquarters were recently presented to Chris Miller at LongHorn’s national Managing Partner Conference in Washington, DC.  The donation was then given to the ALS Association on behalf of Chris and his team in honor of Todd. And the challenge didn’t even stop there!  In fact, Paul Livrieri, LongHorn’s executive vice president of operations challenged everyone at the conference to take the challenge. In response, we continue to see many of our restaurant teams participate in the challenge, and we’re proud that they’re doing their part to raise awareness and donations for a disease that took one of their colleagues too soon.

To donate, visit www.ALSA.org.

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