Kindergartners from Princess Kaiulani Elementary School in Kalihi reacted yesterday as the first cart of the 1 million pennies the school collected was wheeled to the armored car by Al Misajon and Tata Fifita of Security Armored Car of Hawaii. The students raised more than $10,000 to help UNICEF in its tsunami relief efforts in Southeast Asia.

Penny drive raises

Gov. Lingle is on hand
to thank Kaiulani students
for amassing three tons of cents

"No penny was safe" from Kaiulani Elementary School students who collected a million pennies in three months, says Principal Charlotte White.

The 440 students at the Kalihi school actually exceeded their goal by 173,251 pennies, and celebrated yesterday the fact that they will send a check for $11,732.51 to victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami in South Asia, White said.

At a ceremony attended by Gov. Linda Lingle, White told the students she was proud of them because they came up with the fund-raising idea.

Gov. Linda Lingle greeted kindergartners from Kaiulani Elementary School yesterday during a ceremony honoring the school's efforts for collecting more than 1 million pennies to aid UNICEF in its tsunami relief for Southeast Asia.

"You took something really sad and turned it into something positive. You showed that a little penny could make a difference, and that everyone could make a difference," she said.

Students cheered as an armored truck came to cart away the three tons of pennies. It took several men with three carts to load the bags of pennies, each weighing about 40 to 50 pounds.

"Thanks a million!" they called out as the carts passed by.

The ceremony included the reading of a congratulatory letter from former President Bill Clinton.

Lingle told the students: "I never saw a million pennies in one place before." She said she wanted to attend the ceremony to express her pride in them for doing something "very special you didn't have to do, but something your heart told you to do."

"All of you, no matter what happens in your whole life, you can tell people that 'I was a student at Kaiulani Elementary the year we raised a million pennies,'" Lingle said.

Charlotte White, principal of Kaiulani Elementary School in Kalihi, showed the student body the check made out to UNICEF for $11,732.51 yesterday after the school collected three tons worth of pennies in tsunami-relief efforts.

The Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union sent several employees to the school library to pack up 140 bags of wrapped pennies, with each bag holding $50 of coins. The coins will be converted into a check, combined with the other $4,732.51 in checks already issued from other collections, and donated to UNICEF.

Cary Miyashiro, the credit union's marketing representative, said White approached him for help with logistics in January. He thought it would be a year and a half before he would hear from her again, and he was surprised when she called during spring break, he added.

"The children all learned to walk looking down" searching for pennies on sidewalks, playgrounds and everywhere they went, White said. Their relatives, local businesses and dozens of individuals turned the school project into a "statewide effort," with the surrounding community especially contributing, she said.

"It was just amazing. It brought people together to do something to make you feel good," White said. "We even had the homeless come in with something like a baggie of 12 pennies."

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