WORTHINGTON — Prairie Elementary students began their annual fundraiser to raise money for cancer research this week. From Jan. 13-31, students donate change during the Pennies for Patients event. Each grade level competes against one another by attempting to fill five-gallon water jugs with as much change as possible over the course of the three-week drive. This year, the school-wide goal for contributions has been set at $7,500. To support the fundraising efforts, Pennies for Patients centered lessons are taught and students are offered a chance at a unique reward in a school-wide assembly following the fundraiser.

During the first week of Pennies for Patients, students were gathered for an assembly and shown a video that outlines the charity that their money will be donated to as well as the importance of caring for others and giving when possible. Throughout the week, teachers across Prairie Elementary incorporated this message into their lessons as each day highlighted a different aspect of empathy, caring and giving. At the end of the first week, the fundraising has already been off to a great start!

To celebrate the efforts of the students at the elementary school, this coming week will feature dress-up days. Teachers and administration encourage Prairie Elementary students to dress up in the fun themes on the assigned days. Monday the 20th is pajama penny day, Tuesday the 21st is necktie/necklace nickel day, Wednesday the 22nd is Disney dime day, Thursday the 23rd is crazy quarter day and Friday the 24th is Team Up for Leukemia day. For more information on what the day dress-up themes include, please visit www.isd518.net/pe and look for the “News and Updates” section. The themes have also been posted on the District 518 Facebook page.

Throughout the fundraiser, students have been reminded that they are giving not for the rewards that are offered, but to help others. This is the main theme of Pennies for Patients — students banding together to help others in a time a need. While that is the emphasis, there is a chance for a unique reward for some students.

Collections for Pennies for Patients continue through Jan. 31. To announce the totals, there will be a school-wide assembly in February. This assembly will celebrate the hard work and dedication of the students in raising money for Pennies for Patients and also provide a bit of entertainment. At the end of the assembly, several teachers and administrators will be given pies to the face by students. This activity has become a tradition and something that students remember and look forward to each year. Prairie Elementary staff continue to step forward to be targets for the whipped cream pies as a way to inspire students.

Pennies for Patients is a wonderful way to teach Prairie Elementary students about the importance of empathy, caring and giving when able. This event gives lessons in important areas of life while also offering rewards that bring the whole school together, even if it is at the expense of the principal getting a pie to the face!

Parker Sandhurst is District 518's communications coordinator.