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Sandy Journal

Sandy students learn service, leadership and philanthropy while raising Pennies for Patients

Aug 29, 2019 10:55AM ● By Julie Slama

As one of his last acts as Sandy Elementary principal, McKay Robinson raced Sandy Police DARE officer Cam Kawa on tricycles around student-lined hallways, all in celebration of the more than $5,000 the students raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Pennies for Patients. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

The race was on. 

At the end of the school year, Sandy Elementary Principal McKay Robinson, challenged by Sandy Police DARE officer Cam Kawa, rode tricycles around student-lined hallways, all in celebration of the more than $5,000 raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Pennies for Patients.

“It’s a big deal in our school; we can do silly things that get the kids fired up and help encourage them,” said Robinson, who also would wear a tutu and participate in the teachers lip sync in celebration of the school’s success. “We connect this with our health instruction, but also relate it to kids going through difficult challenges.”

This wasn’t the first time students participated in Pennies for Patients at Sandy Elementary. The tradition began years ago when a former aide shared her cancer story with students. Since then, second-grade teacher Denee Bringhurst has had others share their story with her class.

“My best friend’s son, who is an athlete, had leukemia and he shared with them about all the transfusions he had at Primary Hospital and how well he was treated by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” she said. “He’s in remission and has come back to tell stories and shared with them where the money goes. Last year, my father-in-law has his share of struggles. Many of them know someone who has cancer — if not this kind, another — so they are able to relate and want to help. Each story, students can relate and we have that time when we know we share and help each other.”

The whole school takes part in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Pennies for Patients. During a three-week period, students collect spare change to support LLS's mission and at the same time, learn about service, leadership and philanthropy. 

In Bringhurst’s classroom, each time a student brings in any amount of donation — one cent to $10 — they recognize that contribution.

“We sit in a circle and clap for each donation. I think it encourages them to celebrate and bond as a class community, but it also awards them for thinking of others, not just themselves,” she said.

As a reward for the school’s participation, a banner was given and proudly hangs in the hallway, acknowledging their commitment to the program. It read “Champions of Change,” honoring the students who have embraced getting donations to help cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, as well as to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

In Bringhurst’s classroom, there are five gold champion pennants, showing five years second-graders have brought in more than $300, and one silver pennant, for $200 in donations.

“The students get really excited about helping others, more than they do about the rewards,” she said, as she pulled out the pennants that have been tucked away. “It’s a big deal here and they know the donations they bring in during the three weeks will make a difference in someone’s life.”

Robinson, who has moved into Canyons School District offices to be a school performance director, said the theme of superheroes fits Sandy Elementary’s students.

“They’re superheroes in many ways,” he said. “This is a way for our students to connect with each other and become superheroes with those they’re helping in the community.”