Students at Potomac Elementary School learned that gathering loose change around their homes and donating it to a cause can amount to big bucks for charity.
The 550 Potomac Elementary School students who participated in the “Pennies for Patients” collection through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society raised more than $6,000 in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, doubling their original goal of $3,000. Donations from other fundraising events brought the proceeds to $10,654 — and third place out of 120 Montgomery County Public Schools.
Potomac Elementary students, staff and families are personally connected to the three-week campaign. Max and Taylor Pettway, both students at Potomac, have a five-year-old sister, Avery, who has been fighting leukemia for more than a year. Avery is one of this year’s Pennies for Patients Honored Students who are selected because of their bravery and courage facing leukemia at a young age.
Two weeks after Avery’s fourth birthday, she was diagnosed with leukemia and has spent the past year fighting the disease with chemotherapy treatments. She recently finished her last treatment and doctors say that she is now cancer free.
In an instant, the Pettway family’s lives changed – but with the help of Georgetown University Hospital physicians, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the support of family and friends, they are now leading a nearly normal happy family life.
“Avery is a very brave little girl,” said her father, John Pettway. “She is a sweet little girl who is very happy and active. Avery’s favorite things include swimming, vanilla ice cream, Bethany Beach, the movie ‘Finding Nemo,’ and doing anything with her big brother and sister. Whenever you ask Avery if she wants to do something, her response is ‘not until the kids get home.’”
Potomac Elementary counselor, Liz Borra, working with Leah Cutler, Campaign Manager for Pennies for Patients, coordinated the contest among classes at Potomac Elementary School. Pennies for Patients supplied teachers with lesson plans about leukemia and other blood cancers to incorporate into all areas of the curriculum.
Under Cutler’s guidance, students in the film club also created and filmed a skit about blood cancers and Avery’s cancer journey. The video was shown to all students.
“The students were so excited about giving back and being able to help,” Cutler said. “They were inspired by Avery’s courage. The students learned that all the money would be used for research to try to end leukemia and lymphoma, and to improve the quality of life for patients.”
The program gave students a chance to understand the power of working together to help others – and to experience just how powerful spare change can be, Cutler said.
“The success of Pennies for Patients is due to the outstanding efforts of the students, families and teachers who are invested in this program,” said Gabrielle Urquhart, National Capital Area Chapter executive director. “Leukemia affects more children under the age 20 than any other cancer. This program provides an opportunity for children to learn that every penny counts in the fight against blood cancers. We thank all of the volunteers who helped to make this the most successful Pennies campaign yet and look forward to seeing what next year will bring.”
Since 1994, more than 10 million elementary, middle and high school students in the United States have helped raise millions of dollars for the program. In the Washington, D.C., metro area, schools raised about $678,000 this year.