‘Pennies for Peace’: Freehold school raises $10,500.01 to help Ukrainians
A little girl in Freehold with family in Ukraine sparked a fundraiser a few weeks ago at her elementary school to help people fleeing from the war called "Pennies for Peace." The fundraiser has since come to an end, and the grand total broke the school's record.
But the lesson wasn't about counting change, but rather being the change.
"So, we need to collect some pennies and dollars to save my grandma and grandpa,” says Victoria.
News 12 met Victoria in March after she went to school crying, concerned for her family in Ukraine.
"How my grandma and grandpa going to be not safe?” says Victoria. "I worry about them."
When the teachers at Errickson Elementary in Freehold learned about Victoria's family, they wanted to do something to show their support.
"Here is one little girl that's just touched the hearts of so many people,” says principal Cathy Areman.
So they came up with Penny Wars, except they called it “Pennies for Peace”, explaining to the students what it meant.
"There are some children on the other side of the world who need our help,” says Areman.
For a couple of weeks, students collected pennies to put in their grade's jug while putting in silver coins to other grades to take points away. When their story aired on News 12, the pennies came pouring in!
"Overwhelmed with responses,” says Areman. “We had a family from Newark mail us a box of coins. Retired teacher in Long Branch bring a jug of pennies to us. We had a bucket in the front of the building, it was filled with coins every morning."
Usually school fundraisers like this would bring in about $2,000, but they collected $10,500.01, according to Areman. And who collected the most pennies? The first graders, Victoria's classmates.
Victoria just moved to Freehold a couple of months ago. Her mother, Anna, says her daughter has been telling her friends and family in Ukraine how the community has rallied around them.
"Oh my God,” says Anna. “We collect money at my new school, with my new teachers."
Dippin' Dots saw News 12’s story and wanted to sponsor fun. Areman says the effort has coined a new meaning for humanity, “There is nothing too small that you can do to help someone else.”
Victoria still checks in with her grandparents as often as possible, and News 12 is told they are still safe in western Ukraine. As for the money, the check will be sent to UNICEF's efforts in helping those who fled the war.