From left, fifth graders Riley Jackson, Grady Anderson, Suki Wardea, Elizabeth Hauter, and Scarlett Nations stand with their leadership teacher Amber Worman at Oak Harbor Intermediate School. The group led an effort to raise more than $8,000 for cancer research to be donated in the name of a staff member. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

From left, fifth graders Riley Jackson, Grady Anderson, Suki Wardea, Elizabeth Hauter, and Scarlett Nations stand with their leadership teacher Amber Worman at Oak Harbor Intermediate School. The group led an effort to raise more than $8,000 for cancer research to be donated in the name of a staff member. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Fifth graders raise more than $8,100 for cancer research

Although it left fifth-grader Elizabeth Hauter wanting to never count another coin again, the Oak Harbor Intermediate penny drive was a resounding success.

Led by five fifth-grade leadership students, the school raised more than $8,100 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society — a cause that’s personal for Oak Harbor Intermediate. Tom Karney had only been teaching math and science at the school for just over a month when he learned his Hodgkin Lymphoma wasn’t in remission as was believed.

He went on leave to undergo six months of treatment, but he’s still been a big part of the cancer research fundraiser. Leadership teacher Amber Worman has been keeping him updated on the students’ fundraising milestones; all of the money will be donated in Karney’s name.

“I was happy to be a part of it,” Karney said.

Hauter, Scarlett Nations, Grady Anderson, Suki Wardea and Riley Jackson led the effort, under Worman’s guidance. The class hadn’t performed a similar drive before and didn’t know what to expect, Worman said.

The original goal was to raise $3,500, which at the time felt like maybe a stretch, Worman said. Grady noted that he thought the goal should’ve been $4,500.

The students got to work, making collection boxes and envelopes to send home with students, presenting to classes about the cause and how to find money, creating prizes and other incentives for the classes and counting— lots and lots of counting.

“I was surprised that we counted all that money,” Nations said.

“Yeah,” Hauter added, “it was like, whoa.”

The three-week drive got off to a slow start, however. The first couple of days resulted in $100 to $200 per day from all of the classes combined. But soon the day’s totals were closer to $900, and on the last day the students collected around $4,000.

Worman said a coin-counting machine was purchased after the first day.

The classes competed against each other and each week’s winner got an “ugly” trophy to display. The overall winning class gets a special lunch delivered.

“We have some really competitive teachers at our school,” Worman said. “I don’t know how they motivated students to bring in as much money as they did.”

Karney, who’s been fighting cancer for a year now, is expected to return to the classroom in late April.

“I was blown away,” he said of the last update on how much the students raised. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s awesome because the money is going towards a good cause.”

The fifth graders managed to find success, despite a number of setbacks. The format of the fundraiser had to be changed from what the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society normally does because of schoo rules restricting online fundraising. New collection boxes had to be made and the students went through more than 900 staples in creating envelopes for students to take home, Anderson said.

He admitted they broke more than one stapler in that effort.

The five fifth graders are an energetic group who can get distracted, on occasion, but Worman said they have a knack for getting things done.

“The amount of responsibility that I placed on them for this fundraiser was huge,” she said.

“They did a great job.”

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