Homer Middle School teacher and student council advisor Bonnie Jason credits the school’s student council. Rylyn Todd, a member of the student council, credits HMS students’ competitive spirit. Whichever it is, it’s the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that gets the more than $700 the students raised in two weeks.
“The student council really got excited about it,” said Jason of the Pennies for Patients fundraiser.
Organizing the event, the student council knew exactly how to make it successful.
“Our school is very competitive, so we kind of made it into a competitive sort of thing,” said Rylyn Todd, a seventh-grade student council representative.
With $200 as the goal, the student council designed the fundraiser so that the eight first-period classes competed. Each class had a container in the classroom and earned positive points for every penny and nickel donated. Everything else — dimes, quarters, dollar bills, you name it — earned negative points.
“Who ever came up with the most points, not the most money, won,” said Rylyn.
That may sound simple enough, except the students realized by making donations of currency other than pennies and nickels in the collection jars in other classrooms, they could increase the negative points the other classes “earned.”
“In my first period class, Mr. Calhoun’s class, we ended up losing because we got sabotaged so many times and there was nothing we could do about it,” said Rylyn. “We just sat there during the class and watched them sabotage us.”
The students in teacher Darcey Mueller’s first-period class managed to earn the most points.
“The last day they pulled out I don’t know how much money — $40 worth of pennies or something — and it was crazy,” said Jason of small change the students in Mueller’s classroom cleverly kept hidden until the end of the fundraiser.
Jason said there were moments in the past two weeks when students’ enthusiasm for the fundraiser caused her some concern.
“It was a penny war. Insane,” she said. “It went wild at the middle school, they wanted so desperately for their class to win and other classes to lose.”
While it was all good fun for the seventh- and eighth-graders, it meant some long days for Jason.
“The student council would meet during lunch and count pennies, but (Jason) was still there a couple of hours after school working on it,” said Rylyn.
Students Hannah Mershon and Gabrielle Gregory took the collected coins and bills to Alaska USA Federal Credit Union for a final count. The coins totaled $433.86. With the bills added, the fundraiser added up to more than $700.
When all is said and done, it will be youngsters that ultimately benefit from Homer Middle School’s effort.
“All the money goes to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and will be used for research to combat childhood leukemia and lymphoma,” said Jason.
“It was definitely worth it,” said Rylyn.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.