(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following was submitted to Sudbury Patch.)
Thirteen-year-old Hanna Fitzgerald, a seventh-grader at Curtis Middle School, set out to raise 50,000 ($500) pennies to donate to the WWII Marines at their 60th reunion this past weekend in Long Branch, N.J. After all was said and done and the last penny dropped in the coin machine at Salem Five in Sudbury, Hanna ended up with over 100,000 pennies. $1022.00 to be exact.
A special thanks to family, friends, local residents and businesses (American Legion, Koko FitClub, Sudbury Swim & Tennis, Salem Five, Kleen & Green, MetroWest Colonial Football team and Longfellow’s Wayside Inn) for all their support in helping Hanna exceed her goal.
“This is the largest donation our 4th Amphibian Tractors have ever received,” says Al Petro, 87, a WWII Veteran. “This is wonderful, especially coming from someone two generations behind us. I wanted to sit outside my local supermarket in New Jersey and collect for the reunion, but my wife and kids said I needed a permit, a license, permission etc., so I didn’t do it. This young girl posts for donations in her local paper, online news and Facebook, and ends up with an incredible donation, in pennies.”
When they asked Hanna what her next project would be, she replied “not sure, but whatever it is, it will be for dollars. The pennies were too heavy to carry.”
Although most of these vets don’t quite grasp the concept of facebook and on line news sites, they are very proud of Hanna’s efforts to help them. The weekend boasted just six WWII Veterans and their families along with families and friends from Veterans who passed.
“We learn more at these reunions then in any history book,” says Hanna’s mom, Roberta. “These men are amazing as are their stories. I only wish my dad were still here to see the remarkable job Hanna did raising this money.”
Sites visited during the four day reunion, 9/11 Memorial in New York, as well as the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. In New Jersey, Asbury Park, Princeton University, Vietnam Era Memorial Museum & Educational Center and Bookdale Community College where the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal Commemoration ceremony was held.
These kinds of reunions are becoming more difficult as World War II veterans age. On average, 740 World War II veterans die each day, according to The National World War II Museum website. There are slightly more than two million veterans still alive.
“We feel very fortunate as a family to be involved each year and will continue to reunite with these families (all generations) who have become family to us,” says Roberta.