BARSTOW • Sometimes, when helping makes sense — cents help.
Students at Thomson Elementary collected pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and a few paper bills for good measure during three weeks in February as part of the nationwide "Pennies for Patients" fundraiser to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
The young philanthropists' contributions totaled $1,070.52 — $774.52 of it in change.
For the last two years, Thomson first grade teacher Ginger O'Brien has organized the fundraiser and explained how it holds an extra special meaning in her heart. O'Brien has been in remission for non-Hodgkin lymphoma since 2007.
"It makes it more important for me," she said. "I know what each of those families (of diagnosed patients) go through."
Students didn't go door-to-door during the fundraiser, which ended Feb. 22, but instead brought home small cardboard carry boxes, speaking with family members to ask for any donations that would help, according to Principal Theresa Gonzales.
Each participating classroom also waged friendly competition with one and another. The eventual winners, Mrs. Wellinger's fifth grade class, earned a party and a Silver Pennant prize after collectively bringing in $243.82.
Pennants are additional incentives awarded to classrooms who achieve certain benchmarks. Students in Mrs. Carty, Olson and O'Brien classes received a Bronze Pennant prize for raising over $100 each.
The school began the fundraiser approximately 20 years ago, Gonzales noted, after a student had been diagnosed with leukemia.
"This is our community service every year," she said. "We do it so children at the school site know to give back."
Since 1954, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has awarded more than $814 million in research grants and is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services, according to an Leukemia & Lymphoma Society pamphlet.
For more information on the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society mission, please visit www.lls.org.
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.