Competing For a Cause

How cancer survivor Mrs. Roxanne Fetsch started a penny wars fundraiser to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society while creating friendly competition among teachers’ classes in the math department.


Mrs. Roxanne Fetsch

Mrs. Morrow’s first hour class holds the banner they signed after winning the Penny Wars. Mrs. Fetsch will take the banner with her to the Light the Night event which also raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society each year.

On a crisp September afternoon, siblings Payton Matz and Lucas Matz walk into their seventh hour Pre-Calculus class and take their seats, anxiously waiting for the bell to ring so their teacher, Mrs. Trisha Morrow, will come in from the hall to start class. However, what the siblings share isn’t merely an excitement for difficult mathematical formulas and equations – it’s a passion for a good cause and the thrill of competition that was was introduced to the math department this year with a new fundraiser – Fetsch’s Penny Wars to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Started by teacher Mrs. Roxanne Fetsch, this fundraiser spanned nearly two weeks in which every math teacher competed against other classes, collecting everything from spare change to large cash donations for the reward of food for all of the students in all of the winning teacher’s classes. Many teachers’ competitive streak came out as they updated their students daily on their standing in the competition, – whole classes were so invested, that it would become the highlight of their day to get an update on their class’ standing.

“Hearing all the different teachers’ amounts [was so much fun,] we were up by so much and then the next day we were in second place… it was very suspenseful,” sophomore Lucas Matz said.

Though our school already does many fundraisers throughout the year to raise awareness and money for cancer patients and research, there is no doubt that this fundraiser was incredibly unique and different – and not simply because of the competition. Instead of being limited to t-shirt, ticket, or glow stick sales for Light the Field, Penny wars reached what Mrs. Morrow, the Penny Wars champion of 2019, assumes is close to 95% of the student population.

“Not all kids go to football games. So you aren’t reaching every single student when you pass a [donation] can around the football stands, not all the kids are there. Whereas, when you do every math classroom, almost every student in the school is in a math class,” Morrow said.

Mrs. Morrow also noted how, in addition to the number of students exposed to the opportunity to donate, the number of students who wanted to and who were able to donate also increased.

“I had kids donating pennies and dimes. I thought that was amazing, where they could afford that, they can’t always afford a $15 t-shirt…. It allowed [people to give] a smaller amount… it was a good, wide range of people able to donate.”

It’s true that pocket change often was a large part of the cash accumulating in the bottom of the plastic donation bins. However, it also encouraged even larger, more generous donations from students and their families, than would have been possible before.

Senior Payton Matz recalls how when she brought up how the Penny wars to her Grandma over dinner, she jumped at the chance to participate, eagerly offering several Maxwell House Coffee cans full of quarters and dimes for her grandchildren to contribute.

“We sat and counted everything, and it ended up being just under $100,” Payton Matz said. “And I was like, ‘Oh man, this is gonna be a pain to carry my book bag… and she was like, “We’ll just give you $100 in cash and then we can keep the coins.”

This large contribution was instrumental Mrs. Morrow’s class over the finish line to win the competition. However, while the Matz siblings are very competitive, their family’s generous donation was ultimately prompted by those they know and love who have been affected by cancer. This encouraging and supportive environment is exactly what Mrs. Fetsch was hoping to create through the Penny Wars. After her own struggle with Leukemia, she understands the importance of a supportive community, and she wants to be able to continue this atmosphere for all those in our school and community who have been affected by cancer.

It’s amazing what a school community can do and the positive impact they can have. Thank you [to those who participated]… you have made a difference.”

— Mrs. Fetsch

“It’s important because people who have been affected by it… might not be broadcasting it to all of the school that they’ve suffered from cancer, but a lot have.” And even [some of the students’] parents have suffered from cancer. So I think it’s just a really big cause,” Mrs. Fetsch said.

With a big cause comes a big outcome; at the end of the two weeks Penny Wars spanned, Mrs. Morrow’s classes had come in first place with a total of $518, and with an overall total of $2,000. Donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, this money will be used to help pay for cancer medications, supplement the incomes of unemployed cancer patients, and fund cancer research – going on to help and save the lives of countless people.

“It’s amazing what a school community can do and the positive impact they can have,” Mrs. Fetsch said. “Thank you [to those who participated]… you have made a difference.”