Fighting Cancer In Your Neighborhood

Apple Gold Group has once again teamed up with The V Foundation to raise money for cancer research. Applebee’s restaurants all over North Carolina and Kentucky are asking college basketball fans to show their team spirit this March while also joining in the fight against cancer. We wanted to learn about the people behind the campaign, so we talked to Stephen Kelley, General Manager of the Applebee’s in Knightdale, NC, about why this partnership is so important to him.


By Stephen Kelley

As a long-tenured restaurant manager, I have been asked to read many books about leadership and learn about other great leaders and their decision making abilities. As a life-long NC State fan, who else better to study than Coach V? What struck me most was his passion. His passion for life, family, laughter, and most importantly, his passion for winning. I draw a lot of my personality as a restaurant manager from him. When Applebee’s partnered with The V Foundation several years ago, I knew it would be something that not only I would excel at, but my team as well.

I start every year finding my key players who have a natural ability and also a competitive edge. While I am the “coach”, my team captains do much of the leading and inspiring our other team members to do their absolute best to raise money. Competition creates fun and passion every time.

It begins with “Every Guest, Every Time.” Every customer that walks into our restaurant is asked to make a donation.  We also have added a “Jimmy Jail” to our establishment where different leaders in our company, as well as the community, will come in and sit in “jail” and try to raise us as much money as possible for “bail” to get out. It’s just a different and fun way to raise money. We also do things such as bake sales and car washes to help bring in donations. Every day the staff sets individual goals and store goals that we will achieve. I challenge them by adding at least five dollars to their individual goal just as that extra push.

Being a father of three, I feel blessed to be able to see my kids and play with them every day; not everyone has that luxury. Last year, one of my team members and I got to meet a doctor whose research was funded by the Foundation, and it was just amazing and touching. I have had several family members that were diagnosed with and have beaten cancer over the years, so I know personally, that every dollar does count. If no one is asking, then no one is researching. That is why we start with, “Every Guest, Every Time!!”

I get very passionate about this, which in turn makes my staff passionate about it and you can just feel it in the atmosphere!