Fighting cancer with pennies

Jersey Shore Area Middle School kicks off ‘Pennies ... for Pasta’

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Laura Milarch, principal, speaks during the assembly for the fundraiser to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at the Jersey Shore Area Middle School recently.

JERSEY SHORE — In order to help those suffering from cancer, the Jersey Shore Area Middle School recently started a fundraiser with proceeds benefiting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

They deemed the fundraiser “Pennies … for Pasta” for the class that raises the most to be treated with a lunch from Olive Garden.

“We believe pennies can do an awful lot to gain research, help and support we have for this society,” said Laura Milarch, middle school principal.

It was run by the Builders Club and V. Ruth Eck Vierra, emotional support teacher.

“Last year, we collected $3,179. Isn’t that amazing?” Vierra said. “This year, we’re going to jack it up and see if we can collect $3,300 or so.”

The fund raiser continues into February.

“There may be some of you who had family members, parents, brothers, sisters, who have been afflicted with Leukemia. If you know what that’s all about, you know how difficult that is to understand the impact it has on a person’s life,” said Laura Milarch, middle school principal.

Robin Mueser-Robertson, campaign specialist/student services of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, spoke to middle school students at a recent assembly.

“Did you know over 1 million people in the United States are living with a blood cancer?” she said. “Did you know 1 in 3 people will have a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime? Did you know Leukemia is the most common cancer in people under the age of 20? And, did you know you are the ones who are saving lives?”

She said that their organization works hard to help those who have a blood cancer to get better.

“We do that by raising funds, and part of that is up to you,” she said. “We thank you very much. You guys have been an awesome partner with us.”

She said collecting change adds up, and while last year was just students trying to gather change where they could, they were able to get well over 3,000 pennies with their efforts.

“Pennies are very significant because you don’t know which penny is the first penny that promotes a brand to be given to a researcher, who starts researching for the drug that’s going to cure cancer,” she said. “You don’t know which penny is the last penny which enables a patient to actually receive a very important immunotherapy, chemotherapy or stem cell transplant.”

She said pennies are critical in being heroes to fight against cancer.

Nancy Rodabaugh, learning support teacher and Lymphoma survivor, also spoke to the students during the assembly.

“I’m one of the lucky ones. I had cancer. That might sound a little odd to say ‘lucky’ and ‘cancer’ in the same breath,” she said.

She said when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma 17 years ago, she knew that in the years before her, people would die from it, but research had given a treatment for it.

“I knew I was going to be okay,” she said. “I am so thankful for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because during the time that I was getting treatment, I was constantly getting information from them on their websites,” she said. “That was so helpful for me.”

She said she was grateful for everyone in the past who donated to make that research possible to help people fight cancer.

“Thankfully through all that money and that research, there was a cure for my cancer, so here I am,” she said.

In hopes to keep the process going, she said gathering pennies was important.

“I just think we can do the same thing … We can keep working, keep raising money so that scientists can do their job,” she said. “So that others can be the lucky ones, get a treatment, be cured and keep standing 17 years later.”