By Dave Topp
See a penny on the ground, pick it up. Find a nickel in your pocket, hang on to it. Notice a quarter between the couch cushions, make sure to save it.
Students at Pasadena Elementary and Riviera Beach elementary schools are looking for all the loose change they can find to support the Pennies for Patients program.
“By collecting change, you help the sick kids and adults,” said Blake Feher, a fourth-grader at Riviera Beach Elementary school. “You can help hospitals all over the world.”
Pennies for Patients, organized by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, provides elementary and middle school students an opportunity to fundraise for blood cancer research. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the world's largest nonprofit health organization dedicated to finding cures for blood cancers.
“I felt the need in the hospitals for the families and for the things that aren't covered by insurance,” said Susan Lewis, a Riviera Beach Elementary School counselor who lost her father to cancer seven years ago. “I thought Pennies for Patients was a good way to get the students involved.”
Upon her arrival at Riviera Beach seven years ago, Lewis helped create a human relations student committee at the school. Lewis serves as a coach, encouraging the students to take charge of many aspects of the fundraiser.
Students at Riviera Beach collected donations from February 4 through 15. Each day, the school announcements, known as Beamers Broadcast News, were read aloud to remind students to collect donations.
A Riviera Beach fourth-grader named Hayden Martinez said she would, “Take from my piggy bank or money from my bank account and put it in the box so I can help.”
At Pasadena Elementary, students will support the Pennies for Patients program from March 18-22. “We do it as a blast for the week,” said school counselor Michele Noble.
Students will focus on a particular denomination of money each day and pair that with some of their favorite Spirit Week dress-up days. That Monday, students will wear pajamas to school and bring pennies. Tuesday will be Neon Nickels Day. Wednesday is recognized as Dazzling Dimes, with kids donning shiny outfits. Thursday, students will celebrate crazy hats, hair and socks with Crazy Quarter Day. Finally, on Friday, students will sport their favorite team jersey when they bring in a dollar bill for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Each grade level at Pasadena Elementary participates in a service-learning project. The Pennies for Patients project is led by the fourth grade.
“Last year, I collected and donated the most money in my class,” said Pasadena Elementary student Kiery Matkins. “This was important to me because my grandfather lost his life. I hope that the money I raised will help improve treatments for others.”
Pasadena Elementary students have rallied around a fellow student who has leukemia and is currently in remission.
“We oftentimes try to link our service-learning projects with our students and family community here in Pasadena,” Noble said.
Last year, Pasadena Elementary raised $3,283.83 in its one week of fundraising.