By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Northborough – The Marion E. Zeh School has been raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) for nine years. To date, students have collected over $17,000 for the “Pennies for Patients” campaign, which aims to involve kids by teaching them about community and helping others by joining in the fight against blood cancers. The service learning, character education and philanthropy program asks students to collect spare change over a three-week period. Campaign dates for Zeh were Jan. 28 to Feb. 22.
Marie Blake, Zeh school nurse for the past 15 years, spearheads the Pennies for Patients campaign.
“We have a kick-off rally the day we start the fundraiser,” Blake said. “A staff person comes from the LLS, and talks to the students about blood cancers and how their pennies help children and families and support research. Each student gets a little bank that they bring home to collect their pennies and coins, although paper money is also appreciated.”
The response from students and teachers has been enthusiastic every year. Through participation in the program, Blake said, students feel connected with children battling blood cancer and feel that they can help them with their pennies. The sentiment for the campaign is simple: kids make big change by collecting small change.
Helping to fund cutting-edge treatments for blood cancers is something that Zeh students and faculty take to heart. There are currently three students at the school who have been diagnosed with leukemia. Two are in remission and one is currently undergoing treatment.
“They are our special heroes,” Blake said. (She also has a daughter-in-law who is currently in remission after being diagnosed with leukemia.)
As an incentive for students, the LLS awards $50 to the class in each school that raises the most money. Participating schools also receive a $100 gift card for Amazon.com (used by Blake to purchase books on health-related issues and air purifiers and filters for the classrooms that the students with leukemia are in). Raising the most money this year was Mrs. Loconto's fourth-grade class.
For the students at Zeh, this year's annual fundraiser came with an added challenge courtesy of a spur-of-the-moment decision made by Blake.
“At the rally, to create excitement, I promised the students that if they collected $2,000 dollars or more, I would color my hair purple,” Blake said.
Zeh school students and faculty more than met the challenge, raising a total of $2,145.
Not one to rescind on an offer, Blake visited her hair stylist, Pauline, at Nicholas Michael.
“I was very nervous about how I would look, but was pleasantly surprised when it was finished,” Blake said. “The students were excited when they saw my purple hair color and the staff was very complimentary. It has been fun, and I's glad I did it.”
To learn more about Pennies for Patients, visit http://www.schoolandyouth.org/school/Controller?action=loadContent&itemid=91060.
Headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org.