WALLENPAUPACK - A friendly competition where pennies are gold, has been a benefit for the community yet again. Students and staff from Wallenpaupack Middle School emptied their piggy banks at the start of the school year for the annual Penny Wars, and last month the proceeds were given to Dessin Animal Shelter, Ryan’s Run and the Tafton Fire and Ambulance Company.

The “war between grades” offered each cause $600, said WAMS Teacher and Student Council Advisor Erin Zubrickas. The pennies are “positive points” whereas silver and dollars are negative points that the students give to opposing grades. The hope is to have the lowest score as possible, at the end of the weeklong competition.

When the war is underway, Grace Steffen who is the student council president and in the eighth grade, said it is “competitive.”

With teachers giving as well, Zubrickas said they tend to be serious too, by bringing their students to give their coins during the opposing grade’s lunch period, which adds to the excitement.

Each year the causes change, but Zubrickas said it’s about giving back to those who have helped the students, such as the Tafton Fire Company who has helped the school during the annual Color Run every year.

An eighth-grade member of the student council, Frankie Toppi said taking part in the competition is fun, because of how much is raised and how the students work together to make the success happen.

On behalf of the Tafton Ambulance, Captain Sabrina Gumble and Angel Ashford who is currently going for her EMT, accepted the check. Gumble said the donation is significant because the company is a nonprofit, so every donation helps serve the community better.

Jim Brogna, the vice president of Allied Services and Charlotte Wright the director of special events, accepted the donation from the students. Brogna said the organization has services across 23 counties in northeast Pennsylvania, as well as inpatient and outpatient physical therapy with post-acute rehab services and developmental human services and home-based services.

Wright said the students’ gift was “fantastic” and the idea of penny wars is “creative” because students are the best fundraisers sometimes. The students’ help, Brogna said will go towards the company’s goal of raising $500,000 for “advanced rehab technology” that includes an Indego, which is a powered exoskeleton. The “therapy device,” Wright explained works with people who have spinal cord injuries and strokes, by attaching to the lower body and engaging the muscles so the person is moving. The device would be the first in the region because people currently have to go to New York City or Philadelphia for such treatment.

Brogna told the students the pennies collected are able to change peoples’ lives because those with spinal cord injuries may never walk again, but the device will help them be upright, which is important for the flow of blood, their muscles and more.

Of the grades, seventh won the overall competition, but $1,800 was raised by all involved.