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Pennies From Heaven

Forestville Elementary students raise $12k for Katrina victims.

When Forestville Elementary student Jack Lalor lost his tooth, he did what any other 8-year-old would do, he put it under his pillow to cash it in with the Tooth Fairy. However, instead of keeping his money, Lalor decided to donate it to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"The next day he brought all of his tooth fairy money in to school," said Lisa Walsh, a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) chair at Forestville Elementary School in Great Falls.

Walsh and fellow PTA chair Joanna Ehat both helped to organize and execute "Pennies From Heaven," Forestville Elementary's recent Katrina fund-raiser.

"It was part of a community outreach program that we do to find ways to involve the kids in activities to benefit the greater community," said Walsh.

According to both Walsh and Ehat, the idea to have the students do something to raise money for Katrina victims immediately struck PTA members as a great way to immerse students in a positive activity, while simultaneously making them aware of the tragedy.

"We wanted to meet a real need, which we understood was cash," said Ehat.

Every lunch period since Sept. 19, students placed coins, bills and checks in large water bottles divided up by school grade.

"It has been amazing," said Ehat.

Sarah Braun, a guidance counselor at Forestville, says that the response from the children was "incredible," and that the stories of children giving up their own personal savings are endless. One of Braun's daily duties was to read announcements about individual contributions.

"The Beuller kids brought in a huge container of coins that they had been saving forever, and they split it between their grade levels which are second and fourth. Britney Smith brought in $52 of her own money that she had saved up, and another student brought in all of his college savings because he said they [Katrina victims] needed it now and he could save it up later," said Braun.

Lisa Walsh said she was impressed with second grader Sam Thurman, 8, who "had been saving up all of his money for a long time to buy something he wanted, but instead decided to give it all to the hurricane victims."

Walsh's own son Jake, 7, a second grader at Forestville says he thinks the Pennies From Heaven fund-raiser was "good," and brought in a bucket of coins that had some of his parent's extra change as well as change that he had gathered and saved.

Joe Ulepic, 6, brought in coins from his piggy bank as well as a check from his mother for his first grade contribution. Ulepic says he enjoyed participating in the fund-raiser.

"It's fun because we're helping a lot of other people and it's really fun helping," said Ulepic.

Joanna Ehat's two sons Alex, 10, and Nicholas, 8, also made personal contributions. Both brought in all the money in their piggy banks.

"Nicholas brought in his piggy bank that has had since birth," said Ehat. "It was an 8-year-old dinosaur piggy bank."

Alex Ehat brought in his 2-year-old piggy bank and said that he has also enjoyed the opportunity to lend a helping hand to those less fortunate.

"I think it's good because you're helping other kids," he said.

The Great Falls branch of Chevy Chase bank offered to handle the donations for the school as a way of helping out. On Friday, Oct. 1, Forestville turned the collected money in to Chevy Chase and discovered that the students had been able to raise a grand total of $12,071 for the American Red Cross, with the fifth grade winning as the lead contributors.