For the second year in a row, Hockinson Middle School students have soared past their goal in the Pennies for Patients drive for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

This year, with $6,228 raised, they set a record among southwest Washington schools for the amount collected in a single campaign.

“No one’s going to come close to them,” said Lisa Weber, student series campaign manager for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

And they’re among the top 10 fundraising schools in the region, which also includes Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

The Society contacted HMS teacher Kendall Jones in 2014 to ask whether the school would be interested in doing a Pennies for Patients campaign—not realizing how familiar she was with the Society.

As a patient.

Jones had started as a new teacher in the Hockinson School District in September 2013 but was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma that November. She went on leave and was in treatment from December through the end of the 2013-14 school year. Her Hockinson colleagues donated the equivalent of 10 years’ worth of accumulated sick leave to help see her through.

“These people were strangers. I’d just started working here,” Jones said. “I knew I was in a good place.”

As a lymphoma patient, Jones had benefited from the work of the Society, participating in a young adult cancer support group and receiving financial assistance. The Society also supports research on blood-related cancers.

Jones harnessed the energy of her Leadership students for the penny drive. She shared her story, and her Leadership students turned their fundraising into a home-base competition. Students cleared out change drawers at home and in cars, parents and staff made donations, and students went door to door through their neighborhoods.

“The school just came together,” Jones said.

Sixth grader Sophia Leonard watched her twin brother, Quintin, put money from his own wallet into the drive and decided to take action. She walked around her neighborhood with an iPad, sharing the Pennies for Patients website with neighbors, and asking for donations. When she returned home, she was surprised to find she had raised $410.

“I have family members who have had cancer, so I love the idea of this fundraiser,” she said. “It’s a really great cause, and two hours of my time and $400 definitely will help.”

What Hockinson Middle School has done is remarkable, said Weber of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, explaining that it usually takes schools at least seven or eight years to raise $10,000. HMS easily did it in two.

“They blew it out of the water the first year alone,” she said, recalling their first campaign, which raised $4,800. The average amount raised by participating schools in this chapter, which includes Oregon, southwest Washington, Idaho and Montana, is $1,023.

What makes Hockinson’s achievement even more remarkable is the Middle School’s small size: only 438 students. The per-student average collected throughout the regional chapter is $1.68. Hockinson’s average is $12.63.

“Not even at the high school level have I ever met with such an engaged group,” Weber said. “They had ideas and things they were going to do right off the bat.”

A school assembly is scheduled for March 18, and Weber will be there presenting banners and certificates to the school and some of its students.