The next time a cashier hands you change for a purchase, think about Hanna Fitzgerald before you toss aside your coins.
The 13-year-old student, whose family has a history in the U.S. military, is taking on a special project and wants to raise $500 for the servicemen and women ... using only pennies.
That's 50,000 if you're doing the math.
Hanna and her family plan on donating the pennies on Oct. 10 in Wildwood, N.J., during the 60th reunion for the 4th Amphibian Tractors, a platoon of Marines that her grandfather, Leo Mogavero, was a member of before dying in 2004.
"Once he passed we started going," said Roberta Fitzgerald, Hanna's mom. "We hear a lot of stories, meet great families, but sadly every year more and more pass away. There are only eight left."
One of those stories that sticks with Fitzgerald involves her father during WWII in Guam, where he helped save a fellow Marine.
"The Marine, Donald Turner, was really good friends with my father," Fitzgerald said. "He told me my father was in a Humvee, and they were being bombed and (Turner) wasn't in the truck. He was running after truck and he said all he could remember was my father seeing him, crossing across guys (in the Humvee), reaching out, screaming for him to run faster until he grabbed on and pulled him in truck."
Fitzgerald, who also had a nephew die while serving and has two cousins married to active Marines, said hearing these types of stories isn't typical.
"I didn't know a lot about the history until we started going to these reunions," she said. "Dad never shared them with us. I asked another Marine why, and he said none of them do, not with the families because of the bond (the Marines make). It's all within their own little group. You only hear the good ... every now and then bad."
And with the help of Hanna, hopefully one more good story can be added.
The 13-year-old started her project, called Penny for Your Thoughts, two weeks ago, using Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth to spread the word.
In that time she has received dozens of letters of support from all over the country, with people offering words of encouragement ... along with a few pennies.
"It means a lot," said Hanna, who added one person sent her a 1906 Indian penny. "It's a good thing to donate to the military and help others."
Her mother agreed.
"When she gets something in the mail, it makes her feel good. She gets really excited," Fitzgerald said. "The letters say she's doing a great job, and we're proud of you, keep going. It's a great cause."
The Fitzgeralds plan to keep every letter so they can thank all of those who have helped the cause.
"We want to recognize everyone for the project," Fitzgerald said.
Hanna said she doesn't know how many pennies she's collected so far, only because it's too many to count.
"It would have been easier to count if we were collecting dollars," she said laughing.
To help with Hanna's cause, send your pennies to:
PO Box 1172
Sudbury, MA 01776.