The typical fate of loose change is to land in a cup holder or jar, never to be seen again. Students at Manhattan Middle School in Boulder proved the worth of a penny by raising $5,615 for Children’s Hospital Colorado, in mostly coins, in only five days.
The Penny Pot fundraising competition began in 1975. Year after year, the school supported various causes based on student interests and community need. Teachers like Ben Johnson wanted to get students involved and send a message that they can make a difference.
“Instead of getting sad, let’s get mad and raise some money,” said Johnson.
The friendly competition starts with a plastic jug representing each of the three grades. Pennies count as “positive points” and nickels, dimes, quarters and cash count as “negative points.” Then it’s time for students to empty their pockets and fill their grade’s jug with all the pennies they can find, and fill their opponents jug with larger currency to lower their score.
It’s more than a competition between grade levels. The students rally together as a community.
After a three-year hiatus, the fundraising competition made a comeback this year when Jessica Foerch, one of Mr. Johnson’s former students, reached out. One phone call later and the Penny Pot competition was back on with a new mission to raise money for Children’s Colorado – the place that saved Jessica’s life.
Jessica was born with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid that puts pressure on the brain. She also suffered meconium aspiration syndrome which occurs when a newborn breathes a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid into the lungs during delivery. This led to two cardiac arrests. Jessica recently celebrated the 14-year anniversary of her last of seven surgeries as a teenager at Children’s Colorado.
“Children’s Colorado didn’t give up on me and allowed me the opportunity to be alive in the first place,” said Jessica.
Not only did Jessica help revive the Penny Pot competition alongside her former music teacher, she flew out for the final reveal and generously topped off each grade’s jug with a $1,000 donation, increasing their total to $8,615.
“What you guys did for Children’s Colorado has a real impact on children, and I am one of those kids,” said Jessica at the coin count celebration. “The hospital saved my life and because of what you guys are doing to help them out, they get to keep saving other kids’ lives, too.”
Jessica plans on visiting her old middle school for the beloved Penny Pot competition for years to come.
Fundraising is a tradition at Manhattan Middle School, empowering every student to make a difference through giving, one handful of pennies at a time.