Several years ago, I read in a national advice column about a fundraiser called “A Mile of Pennies”. Placed side by side for a mile, the pennies add up to $844.80. I thought it was an interesting concept and a fun way for kids to raise money, so I mentioned it to my friend and fellow teacher, Kathlee.
We decided to try it with our middle school students, with a competition among homerooms; the money the students raised would be used in some way for children during the holiday season. The winning homeroom would receive a pizza party and movie (paid for by other funds, not the money raised by the students).
Kathlee really liked the idea and got her students into the spirit. They were motivated to bring in pennies, as well as nickels, dimes, quarters, dollars, and checks. Soon, the whole school got involved, and the students raised more than $1000 during a two-week period; the money, donated to a charitable organization, was used to buy coats and toys for children in our community.
Even after my interest faded, Kathlee kept things going. Every November for the next several years, she would type up an announcement, send out envelopes, count and wrap the money or recruit volunteers to do it. She would arrange the reward for the winning homeroom, get the check written, and help decide which charity would distribute the money.
Finally, she would have the principal’s picture taken for the local paper as the check was handed over to the charitable organization. Kathlee clearly cared about the fundraiser and wanted her students to participate in it — and she cared about the people they helped.
The funds usually were donated to the local human services department, but occasionally the money went to a local civic organization. Each time, kids in our community benefited from the effort. One year some of our middle school personnel bought and wrapped the gifts, with one person saying it was the most fun she ever had.
Eventually, the fundraiser became routine. Some staff members grumbled about it, some ignored it, and some got into the spirit again. Kathlee and her students certainly kept that spirit going, though. Remarkably, each year they raised more money than they had the year before.
While I don’t have an exact total, over the years I’m sure the amount collected is more than $20,000. Each year I wonder which of her students has benefited from the Mile of Pennies without being aware of the part Kathlee has played.
Kathlee never asked for praise. But even though the Mile of Pennies was a school-wide effort, none of it would have happened without her persistence, follow-through and, most of all, her caring.