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Charleroi Elementary pupils use common cents to battle blood cancers

| Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The third annual Pennies for Patients campaign kicked off this week at Charleroi Elementary Center. Pictured (from left) are second-grade teacher Brianne Rosendale; students Madison Cyrnek and Braden Pringle; and school guidance counselor Tara Johnson.

The third annual Pennies for Patients campaign kicked off Friday, when Charleroi Elementary Center students threw pies in the faces of two favorite teachers.

Students in kindergarten through fifth grade competed Wednesday and Thursday for the right to choose an unsuspecting teacher for the pie-in-the-face.

Kick-off assemblies were held at 1 and 1:45 p.m.

All donations benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which raises money to combat blood cancers.

The campaign began in 2011 by guidance counselor Tara Johnson and second-grade teacher Brianne Rosendale.

The campaign pits grade levels against each other to collect the most pennies. Students deposit their pennies in water jugs in each classroom. The grade level with the most pennies wins.

Students, though, can sabotage another grade level's efforts by placing coins or bills in another classroom's jugs.

The non-pennies are counted against the total penny count.

“Nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars subtract from the penny total,” Johnson said. “If a student brings in any of these, the plan is to sneak them into another grade-level jug to sabotage their penny total.”

The grade level with the highest “positive total” will win a pizza-party lunch on Oct. 18. The meal will be donated by Salatino's River House in Charleroi. DJ Jeff Biddle will provide music for the students.

Current third-graders won the Pennies for Patients title as first-graders in 2011 and again as second-graders in 2012.

Over the past two years, Charleroi Elementary students raised more than $10,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“Our students work so hard to collect pennies and other coins for this fundraiser that it has become our goal to achieve first place this year,” Rosendale said.

Charleroi Elementary finished second the past two consecutive years among schools in the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Johnson said Bank of America representatives visit the school every two to three days during the drive to collect the pennies. The coins are deposited in the CoinStar system at the Fisher Heights Giant Eagle, which automatically counts the total and deposits the donations with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Johnson said the school is reaching out to local businesses for donations.

“Any penny we get is more than we had,” Johnson said. “We're just trying to rally the community for a common good.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or