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PES students raise nearly $5,000 for leukemia research

by Brendan Berube
Editor - Record-Enterprise

Lydie Marunowski, the inspiration behind Plymouth Elementary School’s recent Pennies for Patients fundraiser. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
April 18, 2012
PLYMOUTH — When Jess Marunowski and Jan Panagoulis set out earlier this year to organize a Pennies for Patients fundraiser at Plymouth Elementary School to support the fight against childhood leukemia, they were hoping the local community would step up in a big way.

Not even in their wildest dreams, however, could they have imagined what an overwhelming groundswell of support their efforts would receive.

Panagoulis (a math teacher at PES) and Marunowski (who works in the school's front office) announced last week that thanks to the generous support of local businesses and the selflessness of students who emptied their own piggy banks in order to contribute to the cause, the school managed to raise a total of $4,901.51 during the two-and-a-half-week duration of the fundraiser, which ended March 30. The money raised will be sent to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which created the Pennies for Patients program, in support of its efforts to fund research and treatment.

For Marunowski, the cause hits very close to home. Her daughter Lydie, a first grader at PES, was diagnosed with the disease two years ago, and is now on the road to recovery after undergoing treatment.

The fact that so many of the students at PES know Lydie, she said, may account for the enthusiasm they showed during the fundraiser.

"They can walk the hallways and see her smiling, and they know she's doing well," Marunowski, said, recalling one particularly selfless sixth grade student who touched the hearts of the entire school by donating $100 he had tucked away in the hope of saving for an iPhone.

"It's a great community service project," Panagoulis added, recalling the fun students had making leukemia disappear — literally. During the fundraiser, she explained, a poster was displayed in the school's front lobby with the word "Leukemia," and for every $100 raised, a letter was removed until the word disappeared completely.

"That came down pretty fast," she said.

Students in grade five emerged victorious in the contest to see which grade level could raise the most money, bringing in $545.72, and winning the grand prize — a pizza party. Grade three came in a close second, with $514.97, followed by grade four with $415.63; grade six with $375.16; grade one with $337.82; grade eight with $284.90; kindergarten with $206.08; grade seven with $202.46; grade two with $188.46; and pre-school with $7.

The students could never have raised so much alone, however, and Marunowski voiced her gratitude for the additional support of several local businesses — particularly Top Gun Gymnastics Academy, the Oncology Department at Speare Memorial Hospital, and the Country Cow in Campton, all of which offered to display donation boxes, and Front Row King Group, Inc., which she said offered a very generous donation.

Marunowski said she could not have been more pleased with the results of the fundraiser, which she spearheaded as a way to give back to other families afflicted with leukemia. What truly blew her away, she added, was seeing the community that helped her family through Lydie's illness rise to the occasion again in support of others.

"To have the student body help me to do that…it's like they're helping me again," she said.

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