Making A Difference

Even in tough economic times, franchisors are stepping up and giving back to causes and organizations they - and their franchisees - believe in. Many of these activities fall under the radar, displaced by news and events deemed more immediate or important. What could be more important than raising money and donating time to help those in need, especially when budgets are pinched and time is at a premium? That's why we're taking the time to recognize our contemporary heroes. So if you have charitable, community-based, or other "giving" initiatives within your organization, please send them our way:

Volvo Rents:
Color - and Comedy - for a Cause

There are so many ways to give to worthy organizations: donations, volunteering, or renting a pink excavator or aerial lift. Yes, heavy equipment is getting a new look as part of Color for a Cause, a campaign launched by Volvo Rents that allows franchisees to choose a cause they care about, as well as the equipment they would like to paint. A portion of the sales generated from of that piece of equipment is then donated to their supported charity.

Franchisee Paul Bullock of West Monroe, La., has painted an aerial lift red, white, and blue. Each time the Stars and Stripes Boom is rented, 50 percent of the revenues are donated to Operation Gratitude and to the Northeast and Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home. Other participating locations (Rochester, N.Y., Springfield, Mo., Ferndale, Wash., and Atlanta) have painted three booms and one excavator pink to support Breast Cancer Research. On tap for a new coat of fund-raising paint: a boom in Little Rock, Ark., to support a bank; an excavator in Charlotte, N.C., for the March of Dimes; and an excavator and boom in Mobile, Ala., for autism.

Volvo Rents also launched its Charity Hardhat Comedy Series to support local hunger relief organizations. The primary audience has been those associated with the industry, but all members of the local community are welcome to attend - as long as they bring items to donate. The show in Asheville, N.C., raised more than one ton of non-perishable food items for Manna Food Bank, a local foundation providing meals for those in need. "We could not be more pleased with the local response to this important charitable relief program," said Barry Natwick, president and CEO of Volvo Rents. The tour is scheduled for about 20 cities across the country by year-end.

Rita's Ice:
$451,000 for Childhood Cancer

During the month of June, Rita's Italian Ice raised $451,000 for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) for Childhood Cancer. More than 550 Rita's locations participated in the company's fourth consecutive fundraiser by selling paper lemons in $1 increments to customers, who could personalize their paper lemons for display on the local store's "Wall of Hope."

At the age of 4, the late Alexandra "Alex" Scott (1996-2004) said she wanted to open a lemonade stand to raise money to find a cure for all children with cancer. ALSF has raised $25 million since then, funding more than 100 research projects. In 2006, Rita's officially became a corporate partner of ALSF and began its paper lemon campaign to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. Over the past four years, Rita's has raised more than $2 million and is the leading corporate fundraiser for ALSF.

"Rita's franchise partners and Treat Team members inspire our guests year after year through this program, and together, they demonstrate how much they care deeply about children battling the trauma of cancer," said Jim Rudolph, Rita's chair and CEO. In honor of Alex, Rita's has renamed its lemon ice flavor "Alex's Lemonade." For more information, visit

Bally Fitness:
$300,000 for Augie's Quest

After contributing more than $230,000 in 2008 to Augie's Quest (the fast-track research arm of the Muscular Dystrophy Association), Bally Total Fitness has upped the ante to $300,000 for 2009. Augie's Quest was founded by Augie Nieto, a leader in the physical industry who popularized the Lifecycle stationary bike at clubs nationwide and went on to sell the business, Life Fitness of Chicago, for $310 million in 1997. In 2005, he was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and has dedicated his remaining days to helping find a cure. Since then, he has partnered with the MDA and Bally to drive research to fight this debilitating disease. Anyone, including non-members, can contribute at a Bally club through August 31 and receive a free guest pass for themselves or a friend. "Bally is dedicated to raising ALS awareness and helping Augie's Quest fund research for a cure," said Mike Sheehan, CEO of Bally Total Fitness. The site for online donations is, or call (858) 277-8206.

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