Giving Back

Lakeland Students Compete in IHOP Pancake-Flipping Contest

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At this point, both of these flippers' pancakes have split in half, but neither is slowed down. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
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Juhi Bharwani and Alison Bretti, the fastest pancake flippers Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
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Lily George, 6, daughter of Assistant Manager Eliza Stephens, reacts after her pancake splits in half. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
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Rianne Torres, a former patient of Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, came out to support the event and tries her hand at flipping. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
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The event's first flippers, juniors Michael Nardelli and Dahlia Notis, kick off the competition. The judge, IHOP server Janet Nichols, tallies Nardelli's flips. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
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MOHEGAN LAKE, N.Y. – Lakeland High School’s AP chemistry class was challenged by a lesson in physics last month when they went head-to-head in a pancake-flipping contest at IHOP to help raise funds for the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla.

The Mohegan Lake IHOP has participated in National Pancake Day (March 7) since the location opened in 2012, but hosting the pancake-flipping event was a first, said Jupiter Kazeminejad, the restaurant’s manager.

Since 2006, IHOP restaurants nationwide hold a month-long fundraiser leading up to National Pancake Day. On that day, the restaurant chain serves more than five million “pancakes with a purpose” for free and encourages guests to donate to charities such as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, of which Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is a member. 

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After hearing back from franchisees and store managers that teenagers make up the bulk of IHOP’s guests on National Pancake Day, Sharbari Bose Kamat, assistant manager of marketing and community relations for Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, said the hospital introduced the idea of a pancake-flipping challenge as an age-appropriate way to get the students involved.

With participation from Lakeland students and interest from other high schools, Kamat said, the hospital hopes to expand the event next year, noting he hopes that students will host fundraising events at their high school. Additionally, she said, it offers high school students the opportunity to fundraise prior to the event, so that they can come and just enjoy their pancakes afterward.

Last year, the Mohegan Lake location raised $14,000; so far this year they have raised $18,300 toward their $20,000 goal. Last year, the region raised nearly $40,000, Kamat said, and have set this year’s goal at $40,000. With the Mohegan Lake location already at almost half of their goal, Kamat believes the region will surpass it and reach $50,000.

Money from the fundraiser goes toward the areas of greatest need at the children’s hospital, Kamat said. Last year, proceeds helped with the construction of a fluoroscopy imaging suite, a million-dollar-plus project.

There to support the event was Rianne Torres, 6, and her mother, Rosa Torres. Rianne is a former cardiology patient of the Maria Fareri Children’s hospital. Now, she is doing well and even flipped a few pancakes. Kamat said it is routine for the hospital to maintain a relationship with families after treatment has ended. Rosa and Rianne said they had an excellent experience with the hospital and are happy to come out in support of events like the pancake-flipping contest.

In what ended up being a nail-biter, the 10 Lakeland High School students flipped their way through 12 pancakes (pausing once to wait for more to come out of the kitchen) in less than an hour. Ultimately Team One came out on top with 297 flips. Team Two was a close second, racking up 296 flips.

The only downside: sore arms. Top flippers Alison Bretti and Juhi Bharwani both completed at least 90 flips and felt the burn after. However, they and the other students said that they were happy to participate in what they called “a great cause.”

“While National Pancake Day may seem like a time to just go in and satisfy your hunger it’s really pancakes with a purpose,” Kamat said. “And it’s really thanks to this grassroots effort of franchisees and servers and cooks and high school students coming together.”

To learn more about National Pancake Day, or donate online, visit ihop.com/national-pancake-day. To donate to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, visit westchestermedicalcenter.com/MFCH.

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