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WDC Elementary raises over $2,900 for Pennies for Patients

Third grade teacher Dan Savoie reacts after having his beard shaved for Pennies for Patients.

Dana Pavek, WDC Schools

More than 385 WDC Elementary students sat on the edge of their seats in the Wadena Memorial Auditorium Friday afternoon, chanting "Shave it off! Shave it off! Shave it off!" in anticipation of third-grade teacher, Dan Savoie, getting his beard and head shaved for the cancer charity, "Pennies for Patients."

When Principal Louis Rutten announced the school had "smashed" the goal of $1,500, the auditorium erupted - and for a good reason. In five short days, the school had raised an unofficial total of over $2,900 for Pennies for Patients - and the majority of that money was in pennies.

"Great job, WDC students!" Rutten told the students, who on Wednesday went under the clippers when the first goal of $1,000 was met.

Jeff Mehl's fourth-grade class pooled together the most money by the end of the week: $466.16. Students from the class had the honor of clipping and shaving of Savoie's beard and head. On Wednesday, Tracy Fruechte's first-grade class raised the most change and earned the honor of shaving Principal Rutten's goatee and head on Wednesday afternoon. Students were thrilled to see Rutten grimace and cringe as the goatee fell to the floor. This event ultimately fired up the students and created more awareness and more money to pour in over the next couple of days.

On Friday afternoon, Savoie didn't disappoint the students either. Savoie, who's sported the bushy, Duck Dynasty-esque beard all school year, is known for his crazy wit and hammed it up for students, who laughed and hooted throughout the shaving. Funny thing is, Savoie bore a striking resemblance to Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax," which coincidentally was the movie students were treated to after the "hair-raising" ceremony Friday afternoon.

WDC second-grade teacher Vicki Smith serves as the local coordinator of Pennies for Patients, a cancer education program and fundraiser benefiting The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Smith said when WDC set the initial goal of $1,500 this year, she wasn't sure the school could do it. The average donation per school is $1,300 typically raised over a two- to four-week period.

"Of course, I know WDC families' generosity is far and above the 'average.' We showed that last year when we raised $1,470 as we were honoring and remembering Jane Fiemeyer and her valiant fight with the 'cancer bully.' But I had no idea the excitement that the beard-shaving challenge would create would raise enough money to blow us past our goal of $1,500. That is just so heartwarming," said Smith.

Smith said an event like this takes a lot of heart and support. She especially wants to thank Rutten and Savoie for being such "fantastic sports and having so much fun with it all."

"The kids will remember this for a long time," said Smith, adding, "My thanks also to Kent Schmidt and other anonymous volunteers who counted each day's contributions to keep us up to date on our totals. Thanks to everyone in the office, especially Lisa Schmidt, for all their help. And thanks to Heidi Van Dyke for her awesome challenge idea!"

Students will be rewarded for their fundraising feat next Friday, March 14 with ice cream, compliments of Kent and Dr. Shaneen Schmidt, who were impressed with the great effort by students. Kent Schmidt, who had the arduous duty of counting the majority of the coins, said to see the excitement on the kids' faces was worth every cent he had to count over the past week.

"Shaneen and I wanted to do something special to reward the students for their awesome energy. It was incredible to watch all week long the enthusiasm from students as they in brought buckets of change," Schmidt said.