‘Million Penny Project’ kicks off on Feb. 7

MARYSVILLE — Those who stop by the Marysville Alfy’s Pizza on State Avenue for the Marysville-Pilchuck High School Life Skills open-mic night and pizza party from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7, will also have a chance to contribute to the Life Skills students’ “Million Penny Project,” by dropping off pennies or other donations to help build a school in Africa.

M-PHS Life Skills teacher Jim Strickland explained that roughly 30 of his students will be involved in the project, but he hopes to recruit more from Marysville and Arlington, as they continue to collect pennies in preparation for “We Day” in Seattle on March 21.

“Free the Children has built more than 650 schools already, through their We Create Change campaign, and they are committed to building 200 more this year,” Strickland said. “One of these schools will be built by us. A million pennies is $10,000, the amount needed to build an entire school.”

Strickland recalled how a group of his Life Skills students had attended last year’s We Day in Seattle, which was the first Free the Children rally ever held in the United States, and which packed 15,000 young people into the Key Arena.

“Free the Children’s policy is that you can’t buy a ticket to We Day,” Strickland said. “You have to earn it by doing one local and one global service project. We’ve done two local projects so far this year, by joining the Soroptimists for a winter coat drive, and collecting 50 gift cards to local restaurants that were handed out to the homeless at Christmas. For our global project, we decided to participate in the We Create Change campaign to build schools in countries like Ghana, Kenya and Ecuador.”

Strickland acknowledged that a target goal of $10,000 will require not only some fundraising brainstorming sessions, but also some letters to be written to local businesses and other organizations, to rally their potential support as well.

“It will be a life-changing experience for our students, who have serious disabilities themselves, to be able to achieve something this great,” Strickland said. “For the rest of their lives, they will know that there is a school for young people less fortunate than themselves because of their efforts. That is powerful.”

The M-PHS Life Skills students have established a donation account at Wells Fargo bank under the name “Million Penny Project,” and donations can be made at any Wells Fargo branch. Strickland hopes they’ll reach their goal by early March, and invited those with questions, comments or concerns to contact him by phone at 425-870-1631 or via email at

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