Members of St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School’s student council, their advisers and Sister Catherine Marie, right, present funds raised during penny wars to Kids on the Go founder and Executive Director Kristy Schena, center.

Members of St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School’s student council, their advisers and Sister Catherine Marie, right, present funds raised during penny wars to Kids on the Go founder and Executive Director Kristy Schena, center.

Photo provided by Sister Peter Joseph


Kids on the Go the winner in St. Isaac Jogues penny wars

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 1, 2019

 Kindergarten and second-grade students put pennies in the bins.

Kindergarten and second-grade students put pennies in the bins.

Photo provided by Sister Peter Joseph

 Seventh-grader Greta Hellebuyck presents the check to Kids on the Go founder Kristy Schena.

Seventh-grader Greta Hellebuyck presents the check to Kids on the Go founder Kristy Schena.

Photo provided by Sister Peter Joseph

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — It was a war where everyone was a winner — especially a local charity, Kids on the Go.

Students at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School raised $816 for Kids on the Go during this year’s penny wars.

“It’s so important ... as part of our Catholic identity, to grow in virtue ourselves, but (also) to take those virtues we’re learning about — kindness, generosity — and give back to the community we live in,” said Sister Peter Joseph, of St. Isaac Jogues.

The school was divided into three teams — preschool to first grade, second to fifth grades and sixth to eighth grades. Students brought in loose change to donate to the cause, with pennies giving their team positive points and silver coins taking points away from another team.

“If somebody comes along and puts a quarter in your jar, you’re negative 25,” Sister Peter Joseph said. “You bring all your pennies and put them in your jar, and you bring in all your other coins and put them in everyone else’s jar. It’s really fun.”

Penny wars are an annual tradition at the school, but this is one of the highest amounts the school has raised for a charity, she said. The student council votes on which charity to support each year, she said, so that the cause is one that is relevant to the student population.

This year, they chose Kids on the Go, a nonprofit organization based in St. Clair Shores that provides summer therapy for children with special needs. Founder and Executive Director Kristy Schena said that when she worked as a speech language pathologist more than 20 years ago, she remembers receiving many calls for summer therapy for children when they were not in school.

“Typically, what happens in the summer for these kids is, nothing happens. If you have a child with special needs, it can take till the end of December to catch them up,” she said.

Kids on the Go offers programs for children ages 3-17, working with their individual education plans to address their goals over the summer months.

It offers more than 25 different programs, all free of charge to participants, including multidisciplinary camp, music therapy, social skills, handwriting, theater, robotics, teens to work and even a siblings workshop, where siblings of Kids on the Go campers can experience the fun that their brothers and sisters get to have at camp. There are also camps that help children with special needs learn sports like bike riding, baseball, cheer and basketball.

“Each week has a theme, and that’s when we take those goals that they have and we’re addressing those goals,” Schena said.

Sister Peter Joseph said that some students at St. Isaac Jogues have attended camps put on by Kids on the Go, which is how the students were aware of the organization.

“Your typically developing child has the opportunity to go to camp in the summer, but (an) atypical child does not,” Schena said. “They don’t know they’re learning; they just come to have fun.”

Kids on the Go is funded by corporate and private donations and events.

“Donations like this keep us going,” she said. “It’s awesome, kids helping kids.”

Even though the class that had the most points at the end of the “war” was supposed to win, the tally was so close that the entire school will be treated to a party, Sister Peter Joseph said.

“They all did a fantastic job. They were really, really generous,” she said.

Supporting different causes and charities teaches the students to think of others, she explained, so they can learn that others may be suffering or struggling in ways that aren’t readily apparent in the classroom.

“You want to support them in their growth, in becoming the whole person that God wants them to be,” she added.

Schena said that Kids on the Go has younger volunteers who come to be buddies with camp participants, “teaching these typically developing kids to be more patient and compassionate with kids that struggle, help them to be more understanding of those who learn differently.”

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