Pupils raise pennies for patients

Bel Air Elementary collects $4,800, leads Harford in drive against leukemia

April 15, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,special to the sun

Lynn Jaquet was impressed when she learned that students at Bel Air Elementary School were going to raise money to fight leukemia, particularly given that the cause hit close to home.

Her son Zachary was diagnosed with leukemia four years ago at age 6. After completing three years of chemotherapy in June, Zachary's illness is in remission, and now the fourth-grader has a chance to help other children with cancer.

"Zachary came home from school, handed me the letter about the fundraiser, then went up to his room," the Bel Air resident said. "When he came back down he handed me $25, that was birthday and tooth fairy money he had been saving. I knew then that he got it, and that in his life he would be someone dedicated to helping raise money for finding a cure for cancer."

About 500 students at the school took part and raised $4,800 for Pennies for Patients, a nationwide program benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

In Maryland, 242 schools, including 13 in Harford County, signed up to raise money for the fundraiser that includes a coin drive and leukemia education. On average, schools raise about $1,000 each, said Kathleen Crostic, the school and youth programs campaign coordinator for the society.

Last year, about $180,000 was raised in Maryland, and $15 million was collected nationwide, she said. The school that raised the most money was Orange High School in Southern California, which raised more than $50,000, Crostic said.

Students have three weeks to raise money, Crostic said. Teachers receive a binder with lesson plans and other information about leukemia and cancers of the blood, she said.

"Often when the students understand the disease, they will educate their peers and parents about it," Crostic said.

Bel Air Elementary set a goal of raising $1,500 in its fundraiser, sponsored by the Student Government Association. After making a large chart to monitor their progress, the students began collecting money in mid-March. By the end of the third week, they had more than tripled their goal, raising $4,800.13.

Even the faculty coordinator of the project, third-grade teacher Michelle Koehn, was surprised.

"The first week we raised over $1,300," Koehn said. "I thought it was just because it was the first week and the students were excited. But by the end of the second week we had a total of more than $3,000."

While money was being collected, members of the student government made cards for a youngster with leukemia and had their classmates sign the cards, Koehn said. And some teachers used the fundraiser to supplement the money unit some students were working on in math class.

Students separated the money and counted the cash, coins and checks. Koehn took the money to a coin counter and recorded the classes' contributions, she said.

Although the class that raised the most money earned a pizza party, students were more concerned with how much was raised, rather than who raised it, Koehn said.

"The kids understood that it wasn't about winning the party," she said.

Some students at the school shared their reasons for participating. Zachary said his time in the hospital motivated him.

"Some of the children in the hospital die because they don't get enough medicine," Zachary said. "That makes me sad. I wanted to raise money so kids like me won't die."

Second-graders Sam Queen and Trevor Schafer teamed up to raise $115. Sam said he wanted to help people like his uncle who had cancer.

Although fourth-grader Alexis Golumbek doesn't have a direct connection to someone with an illness, she said she wanted to help children.

"At first I didn't even know what leukemia was," the 9-year-old said. "But once I did, I wanted to help."

Alexis donated $50 of her own money.

"I don't need anything," she said. "I'm healthy and I can always get more money. I wanted to use the money I had for something important."

Raising funds

Here are the amounts raised by Harford County schools participating in Pennies for Patients, an initiative that benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Totals might change because some schools are still collecting money:

Bel Air Elementary: $4,800.13

Bel Air High: $4,629.93

Fallston High: $1,038.58

George D. Lisby Elementary at Hillsdale: $1,028

Havre de Grace Middle: $700.49

Edgewood High: $450

Fallston Middle: $300

North Harford High: $324

Havre de Grace High: $212.50

Joppatowne High: $200

North Harford Middle: Not available

Magnolia Elementary: Fundraiser begins this week

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