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Penny war puts change to work making a change

Penny war puts change to work making a change Penny war puts change to work making a change

Week-long drive raises more than $6,000 for Ronald McDonald House

Sometimes a penny is all it takes to make a difference.

Pat Olson, a special education teacher at Stetsonville Elementary School was working to help a local family. The little brother of one of his students was born. There were complications and the family ended up having to use the Ronald Mc-Donald House.

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is an independent American nonprofit organization whose mission is to create, find, and support programs that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children. There are 380 Ronald McDonald Houses in 64 countries. These accommodate families with hospitalized children under 21 years of age (or 18 or 26, depending on the House), who are being treated at nearby hospitals and medical facilities.

Pat Olson talked to his wife Megan Olson, a kindergarten teacher at Medford Area Elementary School about what he was doing.

The Olsons have their own experience in using Ronald McDonald House with the birth of their own son last summer. They ended up staying in the Ronald Mc-Donald House in Madison for 35 days as their son received care.

“It was personal to us,” Pat said. Megan began to talk to other staff members and quickly found that it was personal to a lot of people. She said there were many students, staff members and their extended families who have used the resource or are using it.

Megan came up with the idea of doing a penny challenge in each of the elementary schools. “Megan did a lot of the planning,” Pat said.

It was set up as a class competition with the class collecting the most money receiving a movie and popcorn at Broadway Theatre.

School District Pupil Services Director Joseph Greget assisted in getting the prize lined up and helping get the drive rolling.

Megan explained that the way it worked was that pennies and dollars were positive amounts for the class, while silver-colored coins subtracted from that class’s total.

Going into it, Megan’s expectations were modest. After all the drive was set to run for only a week. In the end, the drive raised more than $6,667 for Ronald McDonald House.

The winning class at MAES was the second grade and the winning class at SES was the third grade. “My kindergartners were bummed about not winning,” Megan said.

She explained that she told them ahead and throughout the competition that they might not win, but that their contribution would help a lot of people.

She said that when she got back from making the announcement about the winning classes and the total raised, her students were excited. “We helped so many people,” they told her. “It was cute,” she said.

The organizers put a large part of the success of the drive to the parents and grandparents who attended the grandparents program last Friday. She noted that there were several $20 bills in the collection jars after that program.

“We are super grateful,” Megan said. “We were blown away.”

Megan explained that they got the students involved in helping sort through the change to separate the pennies from the other coins and bills. It helped make everyone part of the experience.