LENEXA, KS--(Marketwire) - Applebee's recently asked Americans to do the near impossible: select one National Real Hero from a select group of 10 amazing hero finalists. After receiving more than 34,500 votes in the Realburgers™ for Real Heroes contest, Applebee's today announced that Emily Schaller from Trenton, Mich., is the Grand Prize Winner. In addition to some much-deserved recognition, Emily also will receive $5,000 and a year's worth of Applebee's Realburgers.(1)
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) at 18 months, Emily's parents were told she would not live to see high school. Now in her 20s, Emily has made it her life's mission to bring awareness to this disease. She founded the Rock CF Foundation (www.letsrockcf.org) in 2007. Since then, Emily has raised $150,000 for cystic fibrosis research. Through the Rock CF Foundation, she teaches patients and parents about the effects of cystic fibrosis and advancements in CF treatment.
"Emily is the absolute definition of a real hero," wrote Julie McCafferty, who nominated Emily. "She is an inspiration, a lifesaver. My life and my daughter's life (a four-year-old CF patient) are forever blessed because Emily has been introduced into them. She is amazing and will continue to touch lives every single day."
Emily also organizes the annual "Just Let Me Breathe" rock benefit concert. This event has raised more than $60,000 for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In addition, Emily organizes the annual City to City Ride, a 300-mile run and 700-mile bike ride from Detroit to Chicago every year that raises money for cystic fibrosis research. This year's ride starts next week.
"The more people who know about me, the more people who will learn about cystic fibrosis," said Emily. "Thank you Applebee's for allowing me to spread my message while eating really yummy food."
Upon hearing the news that she was selected as the Grand Prize Winner, Emily said she immediately went for a victory run.
Applebee's Real Hero contest is the latest in the Company's efforts to support its neighbors. Applebee's and its franchisees are committed to making an impact by giving back to neighborhoods across the country. The Company estimates that in 2008, through donations, donations in kind, and facilitation of fundraisers, Applebee's Services, Inc., and its franchisees raised in excess of $10 million for non-profit organizations across the country.
The other nine finalists were:
David Adamiec, Westbrook, Conn. David founded "Kidpacks of America, Inc." to fill "Kidpacks" with a five-day supply of clothing, toiletries, blankets and stuffed animals for children transitioning into state-funded care and foster care.
Stephanie Brehm, Julian, Calif. Stephanie founded "Leg Up Ranch" to offer therapeutic horseback riding to families dealing with a life-threatening illness. Stephanie's motivation is her son, who was diagnosed with leukemia and then a brain tumor just before she herself was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Robin Ferst, Atlanta, Ga. After losing her hearing, Robin turned to books as her lifeline. She founded Ferst Foundation for Childhood literacy to supply books to children under the age of five in Georgia.
Joseph Gill, Severna Park, Md. Gill works tirelessly to build a homeless shelter-resource center to serve the 1,500 homeless men and women in the Annapolis area.
Kaye Hansen, Boring, Ore. Kaye is the coordinator of the Oregon chapter of Home of the Brave Quilt Project. She personally delivers home-made quilts to mothers and fathers of fallen soldiers.
Clayton Lillard, Austin, Texas. Clayton started "Clayton's Backyard Crew" when he was just 10 years old by repairing discarded bikes to give to children whose parents are incarcerated.
Anthony Varnell, Madison, Tenn. Anthony started a mentoring program which pairs a young boy with a male role model. Through his organization, Boyz to Men, Anthony reaches out to youth in the community and gives them an opportunity to have a positive role model.
Solomon Volen, Philadelphia, Pa. Solomon, 82-years-old, spends his retirement volunteering at the VA Hospital, the Red Cross Disaster Service and the USO, among other organizations. He helps rebuild computers for disadvantaged children and works at a food bank. Recently, he has started making goodie bags to send overseas.
Amber Mitchell, Saint Louis, Mo. When Amber's father needed a bone marrow transplant, Amber organized a bone marrow drive at her university. She has helped recruit new donors and raised awareness of the shortage of African-American donors.
Applebee's Services Inc., and its affiliates, franchise and operate restaurants under Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar and is a DineEquity, Inc. (NYSE: DIN) brand. As of June 30, 2009, there were 1,993 Applebee's restaurants operating system-wide in 49 states, 16 international countries and one U.S. territory, of which 403 were company-owned.