By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN It may be just a few pennies at a time, but every little bit counts when students are raising money to help children fight leukemia.
The students at Delano Middle School (DMS) recently collected $7,188 for Pennies for Patients, a national program for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
“Delano definitely goes above-and-beyond every year,” said Angie Lundeen, coordinator of the Minnesota Chapter of Pennies for Patients.
DMS raised the seventh highest amount in the state for schools with more than 500 students. With only 723 students in the school, this was quite an accomplishment.
“The kids really get behind the mission and make it fun,” Lundeen said.
Will Pogue, a preschool student in Delano, was a big motivator for the students. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, and was chosen by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as one of this year’s 34 “honored heroes.”
“Kids are really sympathetic to other kids who are hurting,” said Will’s mother, Jamie Pogue.
Jamie and Will spoke to the students Feb. 22, during a carnival to kick-off the fundraising efforts.
At the carnival, students donated money to play games, raising more than $1,500 in a single day.
“That was the best we’d ever done,” said student council advisor Melody Soderberg.
The student council for DMS has organized the Pennies for Patients fundraiser for the past 12 years. The campaign involves three weeks of classroom challenges. The student council rewards classrooms for bringing in the most of certain types of coins, in order to make the fundraising more interesting. Classrooms that win “challenges” are given extra money in their fundraising efforts.
“Melody is passionate about the mission, and it gets the kids excited, too,” Lundeen said.
“We can devise any strategy we want to earn money,” Soderberg said.
Rick Haley’s 27 sixth grade students raised the most, collecting more than $500.
“Many of them have had people in their families or have known people with cancer,” Haley said.
DMS students, along with more than 350,000 students in 777 schools in the midwest, collected a total of $600,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients program this year.
“They should be proud of themselves, for sure,” Jamie Pogue said.
As an “honored hero,” Will and Jamie Pogue had the opportunity to speak at various schools in Minnesota about living with leukemia.
“Jamie’s positive attitude really impacted the kids,” Soderberg said.
Pennies for Patients helps children just like Will who suffer from cancer.
“When Will was first diagnosed, they helped us pay for some of the chemo medicines that the insurance wouldn’t cover,” Jamie said.
Leukemia is the most common cancer in children, according to Lundeen.
“Not only are we helping people now, but we also fund research,” she said.
In 1952, the cure rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which is the type of cancer that Will has, was 3 percent, Lundeen said.
Now, the cure rate is 88 percent.
“It has led to higher cure rates and better treatment,” she said.
For more information about Pennies for Patients, go to www.schoolandyouth.org.