Dennis Chavez Elementary second graders raise money for firefighter

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Although second graders at Dennis Chavez Elementary School never met him, it didn't stop them from raising more than $600 — one penny at a time — to help them fulfill a firefighter's last wish.

Although second graders at Dennis Chavez Elementary School never met him, it didn't stop them from raising more than $600 — one penny at a time — to help them fulfill a firefighter's last wish.

Students raised funds for Albuquerque firefighter Gil Pohl, who is suffering from colon cancer, so he can take his 10-year-old twins to Disneyland. Pohl is undergoing treatments for cancer and was given two years to live by his doctors.

Carolyn Serafin-Abeyta, a second-grade teacher at Dennis Chavez Elementary, thought raising funds for the Pohls would be a great community-service project for the second graders to band together.

"I've never met him, but when I saw him on the news, it touched me," Serafin-Abeyta said.

It made perfect sense to her that Pohl wanted to give his children a lasting memory of such a special place with his grim prognosis.

"Disneyland is such a happy place, and when you walk through those doors you forget about everything," she said.

This project also ties into the student's social studies curriculum, where they learned about communities and what they are comprised of.

Serafin-Abeyta, along with second-grade teachers Lisa Castillo and Crystal Cordova, didn't want to award the student's with a prize for collecting the most amount of pennies, because they wanted students to raise money without any gain.

"It was completely for someone else," she said.

Since the students had also heard about Pohl's story, it gave a face to the cause.

"A canned food drive is so blind. The students don't know who it's going to," Serafin-Abeyta said.

But by knowing who the recipients would be, the students can take ownership of the project, see who they are raising the funds for and see what they are aiming to achieve.

"I wanted the kids to look at what they helped do," she said.

For seven days, clean milk jugs were placed in each classroom and were home to the many pennies student's collected. A dolly carrying a five-gallon water jug moved from classroom to classroom at the end of each school day.

Students ran out of their classrooms into the hallways to see how much money they had raised each time the dolly glided by, Serafin-Abeyta said.

By the end of the seven-day collection, students filled a five-gallon water jug to the top and held additional change in Ziplock bags and milk jugs.

After almost two hours of counting and jamming a change counting machine, students learned they raised more than $630.

During the collection, students learned other groups were also providing financial assistance to help Pohl fulfill his dream, but that didn't discourage or stop them, Serafin-Abeyta said. They continued raising funds to help the family have a comfortable, leisurely vacation.

"It's just something to help in some way," she said.

Although fundraising projects are usually intended for local families, Serafin-Abeyta said the Pohl's location didn't matter, because it was a family in need.

"It could be any one of us here," she said.

In the past, second graders collected $1,200 in pennies for the Red Cross to aid victims from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.