Pennies for Patients: Sedgwick school district raises money for people with cancer

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. 10. Imagine slowly counting pennies one by one up into the thousands of dollars while your hands get black and green from contacting so much money.
That?s what members of the National Honor Society chapter at Sedgwick High School did earlier this year as they tabulated how many funds were raised by students for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?s Pennies for Patients program, which raises money for lifesaving cancer research.
The chapter was in charge of Sedgwick schools? efforts. They were joined in counting money by office aide Colby Weber and NHS adviser Beverly Lang, who is the district?s counselor.
Students throughout the district, from kindergarten through high school seniors, enjoyed helping others and watching students get excited about it.
?I think for me it was really encouraging to see the elementary kids get into helping others,? said NHS member Melissa Olson. ?That just made me want to work harder for it. It was just really encouraging to see the little kids put so much effort into helping others ? even people they didn?t know.?
Other NHS members are Kami Olson, Elizabeth Schrick, Claudia Giffin, Keaton Abendroth, Brylie Ware, Taylor Bollinger, president Evynn McGinn, vice president Paige Griggs and treasurer Lora Bebermeyer.
All grades in the Sedgwick school district competed to see which class could get the most money. The first-grade class won with more than $400 collected and were rewarded with a pizza and ice cream party. They raised so much money, the tabulation went off the class?s chart. All classes had fundraising charts posted outside the cafeteria, Lang said, and NHS members helped serve the food during the party.
?I liked the pizza and giving the money and the fun stuff,? first-grader Ailey Williams said.
She and another first-grader, Liam Mabry, both said they enjoyed helping people with cancer.
?We thought we were going to lose because fourth grade was ahead of us once,? Mabry said.
?But then we beated them,? Williams added.
?They were really excited that they won,? Lang said.
First-graders and other students in grades kindergarten through sixth were sent home with small boxes in which they could put their change. The boxes were provided by the LLS, as the society provides all the materials to do the project, Lang said.
?I brought all the money I could find,? third-grader Natalie Williams said.
Some students even emptied their piggy banks to help, although Lang said she didn?t ask them to do that.
To get the project rolling, Lang had chosen the theme of ?compassion? for February as a guidance lesson.
?I go into every (kindergarten through sixth-grade) classroom every month and do a guidance lesson,? she said. ?It was easy to present this program (Pennies for Patients) along with the theme. It was easy to get them excited because it got them to understand what compassion has to do with people (who have) cancer.?

PenniesForPatients3In February, Lang explained to the students what cancer is ? especially to the younger students. She also discussed what LLS is and what they do for cancer research, and how they could help even just by bringing a penny or two to school. She explained to them it doesn?t matter how much money they gave as long as they were trying to help.
The honor society and Lang didn?t just want this to be a high school project.
?(NHS was) doing it as a community service project, but we decided to get the entire district involved ? not just the high school, since NHS is a high school thing,? Lang said. ?So I really have to give credit to the NHS students who gave their time. I?m really proud of them.?
Helping people with cancer seems to come naturally to Lang, as her stepmom, Kandi Wolf, is the chairwoman of Relay for Life in Barton County.
?My parents eat, sleep and breathe cancer-fighting things,? Lang said.
She said her father, Dennis Wolf, also is involved in Relay for Life.
?That?s kinda where my inspiration came from in fighting cancer,? Lang said.
She said Relay for Life in Barton County raises money year round.
Counting the money took all day on Fridays during the event, Lang said, and the money was a heavy load.
?The change was so heavy our only male NHS member (Brylie Ware) had trouble carrying it to the office,? Lang said. ?He got it there, but it was a struggle. It was funny.?
Counting the money also gave NHS members some surprises, they said, because things other than American money turned up, such as Chuck E. Cheese?s coins and pesos. There were, though, thousands of pennies.
The grade school turned in $1,895.51, while the high school raised $244.71. Lang said she thinks the younger students raised more money because she was able to go into their classes for the guidance lessons, while she?s not able to do that on the high school level because there?s so many classes. The check already has been sent to the society, and the first grade will be given a gold pennant. Other classes will receive silver and bronze pennants. LLS will help defray the costs of the pizza party.
When they were done counting, NHS members updated the charts every Friday. Counting the money on Fridays took all day.
?And so the kids at the end of the day on Friday could see who was winning, and that?s how they got really excited,? Lang said. ?I never dreamed it could be as successful as it was.?
Lang also said she was proud of the kids who brought in money and raised money because no one seemed like they were disappointed with the outcome. They just wanted to help people with cancer.
?I felt like it was successful on a compassionate level with the kids,? Lang said, which makes it a good reason to do it again, even though it took a lot of work.
Pennies for Patients started Feb. 18 and officially ended March 7, but Sedgwick had to end their efforts early because of the death of Steve Sheperd, who was a coach and taught computers and business in the district. Because of that tragedy, Lang said she needed to turn her attention to dealing with students? emotional needs.
Lang said she can?t imagine how successful the students would be in raising money if they could follow through for the entire three weeks of the program.

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Photos and Story by?Wendy Nugent