Kids helping kids in need

For the past 15 years, between February and March, our friends at Donatelli’s Italian Restaurant in White Bear Lake open their restaurant to the Willow Lane Elementary School’s 5th grade class. But the story runs much deeper than a great restaurant bringing joy to their community with a valuable partnership.

The story begins with Leigh Anderson, a teacher at Willow Lane Elementary School. Leigh wanted to find a way to get students more involved in their community. She proposed an event to Trish Appleby, the owner of Donatelli’s Italian Cuisine in White Bear Lake. When Trish accepted, they began a partnership that would run for years and touch countless lives.

Watch local KARE 11 News coverage of the Donatellis Willow Lane Kids

Restaurant school is in session!

Guided by the staff at Donatelli’s, Willow Lane’s fifth graders get first hand experience of what it takes to operate and run a big restaurant (everything except for mixing drinks of course). Willow Lane kids wait on tables, serve customers and generally brighten the day of Donatelli’s lunch crowd. The tips that Willow Lane Kids earned are donated to HopeKids, a local organization that provides ongoing activities and events for families who have a child impacted by life-threatening medical conditions.

Serving up inspiration

Some students heard of one boy in particular named Zach White. Zach was a bright, energetic, optimistic little boy who fought a very courageous battle against cancer. Inspired by his incredible spirit, and the positive attitude he maintained throughout his difficult ordeal, the kids at Willow Lane wanted to designate Zach as a beneficiary of their event.

Zach’s parents Anne and Kent White have been involved in several events to help raise money for children who’re living with cancer and or other life threatening diseases. They have also partnered with Hope Kids and Donatelli’s to help raise money. 

The making of a tradition

Donatelli’s has spent 15 years helping Willow Lane 5th grade teachers to develop this work experience project for their students. Each year the kids prepare resumes, complete with a cover letter and prepare for a five minute interview with Donatelli’s managers.

You have to see this event for yourself. Sadly, it’s over for the year, but next year, we highly suggest you drop by Donatelli’s to take part. You’ll not only be enjoying the best Italian Food in Minnesota, but you’ll be supporting a great community of kids helping other kids in need.

In the meantime, get a load of these great shots we captured. Happy to have snapped so many pictures of these kids working hard and bringing joy to their community. We love photography. Taking photos and developing integrated visual campaigns are a couple of our specialties. So we’re especially grateful to put our talents towards an inspirational event such as Donatelli’s Willow Lane Tuesdays!

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