I love this story so much. I love that it started with a kid questioning what he was taught in school. I love that no one told him "that's a dumb idea." I love that it's outside the box. I love that in questioning what he learned in school, Jack Gabriel wanted to do something to help someone else. It didn't raise a ton of money, as we all know, a little does a lot. I love that the community came out to support this wonderful cause.
Jack Gabriel is my hero today.
The Power of Pennies: Fundraiser for Finnertys Raises More Than $1,000
by Eileen O. Daday, Daily Herald, April 19, 2010
An inscription on a child's bookmark triggered a grass-roots fundraiser Sunday in Arlington Heights that drew nearly 100 people, raised more than $1,000, and put a renewed emphasis on the power of pennies.
Jack Gabriel, a sixth grade student at South Middle School in Arlington Heights, set the event in motion when he questioned whether pennies laid side by side for one mile would add up to $844.80.
"I thought that was amazing, and I wondered if it was true," says Jack, 11.
With that, he and his family decided to test it out. They designed the effort as a fundraiser for the education fund benefiting Bridgit and Pierce Finnerty of Arlington Heights, who survived a fire last year that took the lives of their parents and brother.
An initial e-mail blast to 40 neighbors and friends launched the effort, and then it quickly spread by word-of-mouth. Almost immediately, Gabriel family members say, donations of pennies began to pour in.
They came in plastic bags from children of all ages, as well as larger amounts from Arlington Heights merchants. They also drew donations, including one $100 anonymous donation and multiple checks that came in as late as Sunday.
The problem, according to Jack's mother, Kathleen Gabriel, was converting the money into pennies. Over the last few weeks, Gabriel said she approached every bank in Arlington Heights and then hit up those in surrounding suburbs, as far as Glenview, in search of more pennies.
She relates how tellers at Citibank in Arlington Heights generously donated $50 to the campaign, but when she asked them to convert them into pennies, they declined.
"We're out," they told Gabriel.
When families arrived Sunday, they found a wheelbarrow filled with thousands of pennies.
"This must be a world record or something," declared Caroline Ayala, 6, of Arlington Heights, as she dug into the pennies as if they were sand particles.
Children and adults worked together, each one taking a bag filled with 100 pennies and working to place them end to end along the chalk outline, stretched over the mile course laid out around the Recreation Park neighborhood in Arlington Heights.
"I feel like I'm working on a railway, laying down track piece by piece," said Max Barson, 12, of Arlington Heights.
He worked beside one of his classmates, Nick Fowler of Arlington Heights, who agreed, adding that the effort was a first for him.
"It's kind of cool," Fowler said. "You usually don't think that pennies are worth very much."
That was just the point, Kathleen Gabriel said.
"There's no such thing as a worthless penny," she told the crowd. "There's no amount too small to make a difference."
In the end, the so-called "worthwhile mile" took nearly two hours to lay, another 1½ hours to pick up, and drew more than $1,000 in donations. People still interested in contributing, may submit a check to the Finnerty Family Fund, care of Village Bank & Trust, 234 W. Northwest Highway, Arlington Heights, IL 60005.