Dara Perini builds up her Pine Ridge Middle School students confidence every day during her math classes. But most recently, she built more than just math skills as a teacher in the classroom. Perini challenged all of the school’s students to collect change from family and friends toward a recent Pasta for Pennies campaign, sponsored by the Olive Garden Restaurant and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
But what Perini and Principal George Brenco didn’t expect was the record-breaking fundraising during this year’s Pasta for Pennies event. More than $5,500 was raised in a mere two months, with teachers and students bonding together toward one goal.
Last year alone, there were an estimated 44,600 new cases of leukemia in the United States. This year, there will be approximately 1,596,670 new cancer cases diagnosed, with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma comprising 9 percent of these cases, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Once Pine Ridge Middle School Panthers heard about these statistics, they were revved up to raise funds.
“I’m so very proud of our students and staff for raising such a great amount of money toward such a worthy cause,” explained Brenco after recognizing top fundraisers during the Panther morning news.
Those students who topped the fundraising charts were rewarded with a pasta lunch, courtesy of Olive Garden.
“I was amazed, as we had midterms, and in the first week, we raised more than $1,500,” said Perini of the students, staff and community’s generosity.
For one student, raising funds started with collecting coins in a small box, which quickly switched to a shoebox, and eventually graduated onto working with backpacks full of collected change from her community.
“I was moved to do this by a student who goes here, and my best friend’s mom,” explained Maria Armstrong, who was a top fundraiser in this year’s Pasta for Pennies cause.
Yet for Armstrong, the fundraiser took on a more personal reason for collecting donations.
“My mom passed away two years ago from a different type of cancer, and I don’t want people to feel how I feel about losing someone that way,” she said.
While many students collected change from neighbors, others credited parents for making a difference in reaching their charity goals.
“My dad has a big bag of change, so he helped me a lot. I’m thankful for that,” Elizabeth Yovanovich said smiling.
“When I went to my neighbors, it wasn’t only change, but it was ones, fives, 10 and 20 dollar bills. My community helped a lot,” Alexis Constantini said.
Pine Ridge Middle School students and the National Junior Honor Society are eyeing their next community event in April, when they head out to walk in the Relay for Life at Gulfview Middle School, with thousands of community members and cancer survivors, to raise more funds to one day, hopefully, find a cure.
To learn more about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, go to www.lls.org.
To learn more about Relay for Life go to: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?pg=entry&fr_id=37557