Monday Feb. 4 marked the official phase-out of the overlooked and often underappreciated penny.
But before it disappears from our pockets, RBC Bank and the Free the Children charity wanted to give it a proper goodbye by putting it to good use.
About 200 students from eight different schools under the Toronto Catholic District School Board gathered at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School on Monday to show their support for Free Children’s We Create Change penny drive.
“We timed it knowing this year was going to be the year (the pennies go out of circulation),” said Marc Kielburger, one of the founding members of Free the Children and We Day.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you collect the amou
Since last September youth across Canada started gathering up all the pennies they could find in couches and cars to help Kielburger and his brother Craig with their year-long water initiative; to provide 100,000 people with a permanent source of clean water by September 2013.
So far, RBC has collected 28,000 bags and We Create Change collected over 70 million pennies. To help the Keilburgers reach their goal, RBC is hosting its own week-long “loose penny drop-off” from MFeb. 4 to 9 to encourage Canadians to drop off any amount of pennies in any container to any of its RBC branches.
Just 2,500 pennies, or $25, will be able to give one person in a developing country a source of clean water for life.
“With Free The Children’s goal to be 100,000 people around the world, at $25 a pop those pennies go a long way,” said Jennifer Tory, the regional president of RBC for the GTA.
Students participating in the event walked into St. Thomas Aquinas carrying these special Free The Children/RBC $25 bags by their handles, others cradling them to their chests, all with the same goal: to show that they can make a difference.
“If you can bring an enormous amount of pennies together you can create change,” said Marc.
“We felt it was very symbolic because as young people, we’re often overlooked, just as the pennies are.”
For Grade 8 student Jeremy Browne his school, The Sterling Hall School, brought in 74 bags to help do their part, which took them about a month and half to collect.
“We had bins at the front of our school, so when kids come in they can drop them off in the bins as they pass by and then we’d go and collect them after,” said Browne.
“It’s an amazing feeling when you collect the amount of pennies we did that can help so many people live their life with clean water.”
St. Thomas Aquinas Grade 8 student Jessica Arantes made the announcement of how many bags they’d be contributing with fellow Grade 8 student Areeba Tabassan. The number was unknown to everyone, including both girls. It was kept a secret until she stepped out on stage and read that her school had 112 bags to donate.
“We were so shocked,” said Arantes. “I’m proud of my school and myself because now I don’t take these things for granted anymore. When I brush my teeth I used to let the water run the whole time not thinking that someone in a different country doesn’t even have water to do that.”
More than 2,100 schools are participating in We Create Change and the Kielburger brothers are hoping to make this the largest penny drive in Canadian history.
The event had speakers from Mike “Pinball” Clemons, a performance by Canadian singer-songwriter Tyler Shaw and Jacob Nayeem, a cast member of Degrassi. All were just as excited and energized as the students about the change the penny would be making.
“The energy was palpable,” said Marc. “To see all these kids who worked so hard to collect pennies who have amazing teachers behind them supporting them, and care tremendously not just about their schools and local environment, but the global community in which they live.”
By the end of the event students carried their bags of pennies to an armoured truck waiting to drive it to the Dufferin Street RBC branch. It was their final goodbye to the penny.
“We will miss it,” said Marc. “And in true Canadian fashion, with something going out, we might as well do it in a compassionate way that will help others.”