Brownstown Elementary School penny wars raises money for Riley Hospital



One at a time, starting from the right, posterboards were raised by students.

After the ninth one was up, the total for Brownstown Elementary School’s penny wars fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis was revealed: $2,364.83.

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What’s impressive is they raised it all in only four days.

“I want you to give yourselves a round of applause for making over $2,300,” Principal Chrystal Street said at the end of Friday’s convocation in the school’s cafeteria.

Also part of the convocation, fourth-grade teacher Adam Disque and custodian Bill Edwards had a pie put in their face by students. The kids were chosen based on the top two grades after the totals were revealed. Pennies were positive, while silver coins and bills were negative.

Preschool/kindergarten finished in the positive at $54.95, and kindergartner Brailey Sack was chosen to put a pie in Edwards’ face. Fourth grade was second at $28.78, and Samantha Goltry had the honor of putting a pie in Disque’s face.

Edwards said physical education teacher Jennifer Schneider asked him to participate, and once he found out it was for Riley, he agreed because he has a grandson who goes there.

“It was a good cause, so that’s why I said I’d do it,” Edwards said. “It was fun. It really was. It was exciting just knowing that they raised that much money. Just to have that much money raised was amazing for Riley. I thought the kids enjoyed it, and they knew they were going to get to throw a pie in the face. That gave them a bigger incentive to go for.”

Fifth grade teacher Anna Hochstedler is on the school’s social committee that organized the fundraiser. It all started Feb. 21 with Superhero for Riley, where students and staff could wear superhero attire to school.

Three days later, the fundraiser kicked off, and kids could start bringing money to school.

“We had the little Riley red buckets, and by Tuesday morning, we realized we needed 5-gallon buckets,” Hochstedler said.

“That’s when kids started coming in and donating for the second day, and you couldn’t walk through the lobby,” she said. “I couldn’t stop smiling. I’m very emotional, and I got a tad bit emotional because I saw all of the kids were so engaged in it, they were so excited about doing something like this and it’s just great to see all of the kids band together and do this.”

It became a competition between the grades with students putting silver coins and dollars in other grades’ buckets so their own grade could stay in the positive.

Third grade raised the most at $808.46, but when all of the money was added up, they finished in the negative at $404.62. Preschool/kindergarten and fourth grade were the only ones to finish in the positive.

“It was like a competition for them, but for a good cause,” Hochstedler said.

The final tally exceeded the social committee’s expectations.

“We were hoping to get $1,000,” Hochstedler said. “We went (Thursday) to the bank after school, and they tallied up our silver coins, and we had over $900 just in silver coins, so we thought, ‘Oh my gosh! We’re going to beat our goal,’ which was great.”

An hour before Friday’s convocation, she found out the final total.

“I was amazed,” Hochstedler said. “I was so excited.”

She also appreciated Disque and Edwards for stepping up to participate.

“They were awesome about it,” she said. “They didn’t hesitate. They said, ‘Yes, just let me know when I need to be there, and I’ll be ready.’”

The money raised will help doctors at Riley Hospital conduct lifesaving pediatric research and enhance treatment for patients with family-centered services. According to, the hospital has the state’s largest pediatric research program, where physician-scientists move their discoveries as quickly as possible to the bedsides of children, and children visit Riley more than 300,000 times each year.

The money also allows children to attend Camp Riley, a camp in Martinsville for children with disabilities.

The fundraiser was close to Hochstedler’s heart because her older brother, Cliff Sommmers, went to Riley when he was younger, and some of her students over the years have gone there.

“Coming from someone that has grown up with someone that has stayed months and months at Riley and knowing several of my students have gone to Riley, your donation, even though they might have been just pennies, that adds up and that is very, very, very special and your hard work means something to many different kids across the state,” Hochstedler told students during the convocation.

“So as someone who was impacted by Riley and everyone else, I want to say, ‘Thank you,’” she said.

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