Dowagiac Middle School participates in Pennies for Patients

DOWAGIAC — Last week, eighth-grade Dowagiac Middle School student Abraham Guernsey sat at a desk covered in change. He slowly and carefully sorted quarters, dimes and pennies into separate piles, making sure that he was keeping a correct count of the coins as he went.

“This is pretty fun for me because I’m good at organizing, and once I realized we could do this, I thought, ‘why not?’” he said. “I also really wanted to do this because it is helping kids with cancer.”

Guernsey was just one of several members of the Dowagiac Middle School Honors Club counting change, as the school had just completed its first week of participating in Pennies for Patients.

Pennies for Patients is a national campaign sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, one of the world’s largest nonprofit health organization dedicated to finding cures for blood cancers. The campaign allows for elementary and middle schools to raise money for children with cancer using coin collection boxes.

“This is basically to raise awareness and funds for children with cancer,” said Dowagiac Middle School Honors Club Director Meredith Mars. “Every school does it a bit differently, but our honors club is making it a competition between first hour teachers.”

In Dowagiac, 22 first hour teachers at Dowagiac Middle School are competing for a three-week Pennies for Patients campaign. The classroom that raises the money will win a breakfast party.

In its first week of the campaign, the school raised more than $250. The honors club also opened up the campaign to the community, by setting up at the sporting events and asking community members for donations.

“Students, teachers, staff are all participating,” Mars said. “And we are encouraging students to talk to their neighbors, talk to their bus drivers, anyone who can give. … We want to raise awareness out in the community, not just in the school.”

Mars said the honors club does not have a set goal for how much it is hoping to raise for Pennies for Patients, but that she has high hopes the school will make the campaign a success.

“Each of these classes has around 25 students, and if each student brings in $4 over the course of three weeks, you are looking at 100 a class, and with 22 classes, that can add up to be an incredible amount of money,” Mars said. “I think that would be incredible.”

The honors students who participated in counting coins last week said they were proud to be able to participate in something that would help children their own age who are in need.

“It feels really nice that I can give back and help,” Guernsey said. “We are raising money for healthcare for kids with cancer, and it is nice to be able to help them with things they can’t get for themselves.”

Fellow eighth-grade student Anna Ironside said she feels good knowing that she is helping raise money for children battling cancer.

“Hearing all the change that can happen from the whole school participating is really fun,” she said. “This affects a lot of people, and some kids need extra help, and if we can help financially, I think we should.”

Mars said she has already seen that the project has been good for students to participate in.

“Students always ask how they can help, and this is a way for them to give back,” she said. “We have such kind, caring kids. Whenever there is a situation where our kids need to give back, they always rise to the occasion. I know the community doesn’t always think of kids as the giving kind, but our kids usually do a good job of stepping up.”

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