A local restaurant chain topped hundreds of fellow franchises across the nation in a fundraiser to support pediatric cancer research.

The Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill on Galleria Drive collected $16,684.25 for an annual Alex’s Lemonade Stand fundraiser, finishing second among franchisee Apple American Group’s 460 restaurants nationwide.

The restaurant was first among the 27 restaurants in the Pennsylvania and West Virginia region, which includes Altoona, New Castle and a handful of Pittsburgh locations, the company’s figures show.

“The team at Johnstown really rallied behind Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and the community has hopped on board as well,” Apple American Group Regional Marketing Coordinator Amanda DeLeo said. “It’s really great to see everyone came together for such a great cause.”

California-based Apple American Group is the nation’s largest Applebee’s franchise operator, with 460 locations spread across 33 states, its website shows.

The company has been raising money for the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for years, by donating a portion of the profit from Quencher Lemonades and other drinks the restaurants sell, as well as proceeds from lemon-shaped pinup cards, which are sold for $1 and $5 each, company officials said in a release to media.

Sales of the pin-up cards were the primary driver behind the busy Johnstown restaurant’s impressive, more than $16,684 haul, DeLeo said.

By comparison, the average Apple American Group restaurant collected less than $2,000, she added.

The fundraiser itself raised more than $885,000 nationwide for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which works to raise awareness about the fight against pediatric cancer and fight for new cures, company officials said.

 “Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation reminds us of the importance of a strong neighborhood presence,” said Joel Lashinsky, Applebee’s chief marketing officer. “When children are diagnosed with cancer, it doesn’t just impact the child, it impacts the entire community.”

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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