The story’s pretty well known. Frederic Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty as a gift from the French people to the United States right around the time of the American centennial.
The statue was the gift. The pedestal to put it on? That was our problem. And what a problem it was: Adults, acting like children, refused to spend even a little money to build something that was going to benefit everyone.
That’s when newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer launched a drive to get school children to finance what the adults wouldn’t. Coin drives in France helped pay for the statue; coin drives in the United States helped pay for the base.
This week, students at Otsego Junior High School and Bowling Green Middle School are engaged in a similar task, but with a more local impact, and — lord, I hope — a completely non-controversial goal: Helping to fund the $300,000 renovation of the Wood County Veterans Memorial plaza at the courthouse.
Kids at the two schools picked a time-honored method of fundraising for this worthy goal: A penny war.
For the uninitiated, penny wars are a fairly common — and fun — fundraiser at many schools. It goes like this: Students bring pennies in to fill their classroom’s box. But students from other classrooms can sabotage their rivals by dropping in nickels, dimes, quarters, or God forbid, paper money.
The “silver” takes away from your class’ points — earned only for pennies — and helps the other class win. In the end, all of the money — copper, silver, or paper — goes to veterans memorial.
What’s unusual about this effort is that it’s normally classroom versus classroom with these things — not school versus school. And in this case, it’s the rekindling of one of our county’s most cherished rivalries.
Bowling Green and Otsego aren’t meeting on the football field this year. Those bragging rights held so dear by Knights and Bobcats alike can’t be decided on the gridiron in 2019 — but they can be claimed in the penny box.
Pat Carney, a Bowling Green Middle School teacher who’s helping to organize this, remarked on how the students have really taken over this effort. They’ve written daily announcements to update their classmates on the progress. They’ve made fliers emblazoned with “BEAT OTSEGO.”
“My kids would love to get over there and drop silver,” Carney said.
The Otsego kids are just as anxious to get over to Fairview Avenue to do likewise — including this proud 1989 graduate of Otsego Junior High.
“When I went around to each class last week to explain the competition, the kids were pretty excited to beat BG,” said Charlie Spencer, the Otsego Junior High teacher spearheading the effort in Tontogany.
At their best, rivalries spur each rival on to greatness. And this rivalry is a great one, looking to do even greater things than normal. So many of the names on the Wood County Veterans Memorial are family names of the kids in those classrooms right now: Chamberlain. Fausnaugh. Feehan. Hartman. Otley. Thomas.
Leave it to the kids to remind us who we are. Something needs to be done, and they’re coming together to fix it. And maybe — maybe — the rest of our Wood County schools can find something to emulate here.
Are Eastwood and Elmwood going to let this be the only rivalry played out in pennies? What about Rossford and Perrysburg? Lake and Northwood? Can we get a rivalry of rivalries here?