The lunchtime rush at Perkins Restaurant & Bakery was busier than usual Monday as restaurant employees and volunteers worked to Give Kids the World.
"So far, so good," restaurant owner Steven Schuster said.
"I think we're on our way."
Martin Luther King Jr. Day marked the restaurant's ninth year raising money for the Give Kids the World organization.
All menu prices were slashed in half for the event.
This is the first year 15-year-old Alex Grant got to greet and serve customers for the event.
In the past, he has worked the half-price day busing tables and as a server's assistant.
"It's really great to be out here," he said.
Alex, who has worked the fundraising event for the last nine years, is the person who inspired Schuster to help raise thousands of dollars for the Kissimmee, Fla.-based non-profit organization.
At age 6, Alex broke his arm. During the routine surgery to fix his arm, Alex's liver failed.
The young boy needed a life-saving liver transplant. For the next year, Alex underwent dozens of operations.
At age 7, Alex made a wish to take a trip to Florida.
His wish was granted.
Alex was flown to Give Kids The World Village -- a 70-acre resort that caters to more than 240 wish-granting organizations worldwide.
The organization provides accommodations, donated attraction tickets and meals, giving children with life-threatening illnesses and their families memories to last a lifetime.
On site is a Perkins Restaurant resembling a gingerbread house, where families eat for free.
With help from Perkins Restaurants & Bakeries and otherbusinesses across the country, the organization has welcomed more than 75,000 families to its resort.
The trip, Alex said, was an event he will never forget.
Mitch Goldberg, director of development for the organization, operated the register Monday. Goldberg, along with Mayor Clayton (a bunny) and Murphy (a gingerbread man), left behind the warm, mild Florida weather to volunteer for the event.
"We wanted to support the Schuster family," Goldberg said as Mayor Clayton and Murphy walked around the restaurant greeting customers. "We plan to continue flying up year after year."
Caroline Miller and Carolyn Marett, both of Norwalk, came to the restaurant Monday to eat lunch. Both said they were unaware of the half-price menu and the fundraising event.
"I think it's a great idea," Marett said.
Stephen and Sharon Woodburn of Huron sat in Grant's section Monday afternoon. It was the first time the couple had attended the fundraising event.
"He was a great server -- friendly," said Sharon Woodburn. " ... it's a good experience for the kids."
Finishing his plate of food, Stephen Woodburn said the half-off deal on food was an added perk.
Volunteers from Perkins Township Police Department and Briar Middle School helped bus tables, clean dishes and serve food to hundreds of customers.
Varun Subashchandran, 12, a 7th-grader at Briar Middle School and Josh Langenfelder, 13, an 8th-grader, volunteered to sell small gift items and raffle tickets for the fundraiser.
Monday's event was the first time Varun has volunteered.
"It seemed like a nice thing to do," he said.
Monday was Josh's second year volunteering.
"I like to help other people out, and it's fun," he said.
The event lasted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Schuster set a goal to raise more than $12,000 for the charity this year. The restaurant raised a record $12,068 Monday, bringing the nine-year total to $80,000. . The event brought in $10,184 last year and $11,026 in 2005.
Schuster, who visited the Kissimmee resort several years ago, said he plans to continue the fundraising event for many years.
"Once you go down and visit the village and see how they help the families ... you want to do all you can to help," he said.
Alex, a sophomore at Perkins High School, said he plans to continue volunteering to help raise money for other children.
"(The children) deserve it," he said. "It means a lot to me."