PENNIES FOR PATIENTS

Gary Brackett visited classrooms at Clay Middle School and The Goddard School for being the top fundraising schools in Pennies for Patients, a program to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

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Indiana schools raised more than $340,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to help fund research and provide information and money to patients and their families.Since 2005, Gary Brackett has been involved with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. On Tuesday, May 13, Brackett visited two Indianapolis-area schools that participated in the Pennies for Patients program, for which he is the spokesperson. Clay Middle School and The Goddard School collected $12,947 and $12,269 respectively.

The first stop was Tracy Packard's 6th grade class at Clay Middle School. The class raised more than $1,500 to contribute to the school's record-breaking total. Taking a short break from math class, the students listened to Brackett speak about his involvement with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and how cancer has affected his personal life.

"You guys deserve a big round of applause," Brackett said. "You raised a lot of money, how did you do that?"

Answers came quickly from the delighted crowd. Allowance, chores, and parents were in the majority.

Lisa Campbell played a major role in the class' success, having brought in $800 herself. She raised the money through hard work, like cleaning the house, and a little creativity.

"I sold some toys on eBay, like stuffed animals," Lisa said. "My father's company promised to match whatever I got."

To keep the children motivated Packard would count the money collected in front of the class and track progress on the board.

"It gave the kids a kind of instant gratification and would build excitement. 'Oh, we got more money!' they'd say," explained Packard, whose own life has been changed by cancer in her family.

"I love being a teacher and getting to be a part of this," Packard added. "Talking about what has happened in my life, other kids their age that are sick, and making it real for them."

Next came the Q&A session, which allowed the 6th graders to ask the linebacker a plethora of questions from what it felt like to win the Super Bowl to whether or not he had an entourage. And since it was a math class, Brackett, a business and economics major at Rutgers, took a few minutes to quiz the students.

Brackett ended on a note about the importance of teamwork, an idea that helped the class be so successful in their efforts.

"Football is a team sport. You have to be a team player. You have to be able to trust the people you're working with. You want to be dedicated and have that accountability towards them," Brackett explained. "I can't do my job if my team doesn't, just as they depend on me."

Across the country students raised more than $18 million for Pennies for Patients. In Indiana alone, more than 400 schools have worked together to raise more than $340,000. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will use the money raised to fund research that will help save lives and provide information and money to patients and their families.

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