St. Theresa’s collects Pennies for Patients

St. Theresa’s collects Pennies for Patients
Principal Josephine Fanelli and teacher Diane Fitzgerald stand with students who stayed after school counting all the “Pennies for Patients” the school has raised.
Photo by Jaime Williams

St. Theresa’s is collecting change for change.

The Pelham Bay parochial school has been fundraising for Pennies for Patients, which benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. So far, the K-8 students have raised well over $2,000 in change.

Science teacher Diane Fitzgerald said she first held the Pennies for Patients five or six years ago when 8th grader Kaitlyn Harris’s older brother, also a student at the time, was diagnosed with leukemia.

She said they raised over $3,000 that first year, and held the fundraiser again when a secretary was diagnosed with lymphoma.

Harris said that when she went home and told her mother that Fitzgerald had decided to hold the fundraiser again at St.. Theresa’s, the family got very emotional.

“To me it means a lot that we’re trying to make a change,” Harris said.

While the cause is personal to some students, the organization provides a video that explains the cancers so the kids can understand what they are working towards.

Madison Reyes, 13, said the video helped make the struggles of cancer patients more real to her.

Reyes is one of the students that do all the money counting, staying until 4 o’clock several days a week to tally up the change.

“We’re talking about hundreds of dollars worth of pennies and nickels and dimes that takes them hours,” said Fitzgerald, “and their more than happy to do it.”

The students raised exactly $2,423.43 by the end of week three. Fitzgerald expects the students to raise a few more hundred dollars by the end of the last week, far surpassing the original goal of $500.

“I’m very proud of the kids,” Principal Josephine Fanelli said of their accomplishment.

The fundraiser is pitched as a competition between the grades, with the winners receiving a pizza party. But Fitzgerald said her students have embraced the meaning of the fundraiser.

“The kids are really enthusiastic – not just about the pizza party – just the fact that they’re getting the money for the patients,” she said.

One student who adopted the charitable mission full-heartedly was kindergartner Michael Pastore, who broke open his piggy bank to donate $100.

Fitzgerald said that charity is part of the culture at St. Theresa’s.

“This is a very generous school,” Fitzgerald said. “Once we say that were raising money for something, the kids and the parents go out of their way to help as much as they can.”

Harris said she likes that St. Theresa helps the greater community.

“To me it means a lot,” Harris said. “Because I know were trying to make a change for people who need help in the world.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at

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