Coins for a Cure | September 25, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - September 25, 2009

Coins for a Cure

Small change adds up to big bucks to help juvenile diabetes research

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

See that change sitting on your dresser? Add it to everyone else's spare coins in the School District and you'll have one big chunk of change.

That was the reasoning of district nurse Sharon Dodson and the moms in the Juvenile Diabetes Support Group when they started Coins for a Cure eight years ago. They timed it to coincide with a walk for the cause held every year at Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek in October.

"We've raised between $10,000 and $20,000 each year," said Dodson. "It's a very well run machine now."

Coins for a Cure started at Rancho Romero Elementary School the first year to benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

"We put little cups in each classroom and asked the teachers to ask the kids to bring in spare change," recalled Nancy Riley, an Alamo resident whose second-grade son Alex had just been diagnosed at that time.

In the beginning Dodson and the volunteer moms spent many hours hand-rolling the coins into little paper tubes and driving around collecting the donations in private cars. Then they discovered Brinks.

The effort grew and grew until now 24 schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District participate. Some schools organize activities - such as coin tosses and competitions - during the campaign, which takes place this year from Monday, Sept. 28 to Friday, Oct. 9.

The organizers borrow the big truck from Realtor Terry McDaniel and go from school to school picking up the small containers for two weeks.

"They're surprisingly heavy. We can't carry more than four," noted Riley. Families also donate bills and checks to the cause.

The women put the containers in the back of the truck and process the contents, taking out miscellaneous objects such as paperclips, buttons and all the stuff that gets thrown into a drawer along with spare change.

"We put the coins into big moneybags, fill them up, and drive them to Alameda where Brinks has a coin processing facility," said Riley. "They process $14 million in coins a day for banks all over area."

"We have to call first and then we back the truck down," explained Dodson. "When they open the door there is a man holding a rifle."

A lift is used to remove the money bags, and the staff immediately puts the coins from the schools into a sorter.

"They stop a machine, put in coins, and electronically send the money directly to JDRF," said Riley. "There is no middle man."

Brinks donates its services. "They do it because they're such nice guys," said Riley, noting that they even take random coins that have fallen on the floor and add it to their pile.

Dodson said that at this time about 70 students in the School District have juvenile diabetes.

"The majority of our kids are on insulin pumps now, which makes their lives easier, and they have more choices in food," she said. Dodson meets with parents and their child's teachers at the beginning of the school year to form a team to watch out for the child's well-being.

The coin campaign to benefit JDRF is also a chance to educate children about juvenile diabetes: It is not caused by eating too much sugar, excessive weight or lifestyle. Children with diabetes must check their blood sugar many times a day, wear an insulin pump or take an average of four insulin shots a day, as well as closely monitor their food and exercise. There is no cure. For more information, visit

Funds have also been contributed to Children's Hospital Oakland and the Diabetic Youth Foundation, which sponsors camps.

"The majority of our kids have spent time at Children's Hospital when they are diagnosed and we like to be able to support them," explained Dodson.

The campaign is also enjoyable, said Riley.

"It's so fun, I can't even tell you - driving all over town and hoisting the moneybags around. And it's so exciting to see them add up," she said.

"We do a 'last call,' and the teachers will send in these little first- or second-graders who give me plastic baggies with maybe seven coins. They'll say, 'This is for the cure.' It's so cute. They really do believe that. It's rewarding."

"Over the years we've collected millions of coins," she added. "We've received over $100,000 just from kids alone."

"This demonstrates," she added," that little things add up."

A lot of spare change

In 2007, a total of 436,885 Coins for a Cure were collected, with the breakdown as follows:

* Pennies - 303,417

* Nickels - 37,985

* Dimes - 57,868

* Quarter - 37,580

* Half dollars - 35

They all added up to $20,274.72 to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Anyone can donate coins, dollar bills or checks at the School District office, 699 Old Orchard Drive, Danville. Mark donations to the attention of Adrienne Keeling in the Educational Services Department. Donations can also be charged at


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