SAGAMORE HILLS — Empty out the penny jars and gather up loose change to fight blood cancers.

Kindergarten through fourth-grade students at Rushwood Elementary, 8200 Rushwood Lane, are collecting change from March 18 through March 25 and will have a raffle March 19 to raise money for Pennies for Patients to fight leukemia and lymphoma cancers.

Co-Chairs Goksu Kretch and Wendy Bush along with volunteer helpers Renee Piper, Allyson Lehman and Katie Dagostino organized the event.

The co-chairs have personal ties to fighting leukemia with very different outcomes.

Wendy Bush lost her 14-year-old daughter, Sarah, to leukemia April 27, 2017, about a month after being diagnosed. She was a Nordonia High School freshman known for her positive outlook and inspiration to others.

Wendy's son, Mathew attends fourth grade at Rushwood Elementary, and they see the Pennies for Patients as a way to honor Sarah's memory.

"I am so excited and passionate about this fundraiser," Wendy said. "It is very personal to me and my family, and we’re hoping one day there will be a cure so no other family has to go through such a terrible loss like losing our daughter Sarah."

Leukemia strikes at random and can affect any family. If found in time, the outcome can be positive.

Goksu Kretch's daughter Hannah (Kretch) Mallik was diagnosed 10 years ago with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was 18. She was a freshman at the University of Toledo. After intense chemo treatment, she graduated from the University of Akron and works now for PNC.

This May will mark 10 years past cancer, Kretch said.

"She even got married on the day she was diagnosed to reclaim this day," Kretch said. "She cherishes life and embraces it with all her heart. Although it has been 10 years, you never forget that cancer stormed into your life and the toll it takes on your loved one as well as all those around her. She is my hero in every sense of the word. She taught me what strength and hope truly means."

Events are planned all week to encourage giving.

Students will have an assembly at 10 a.m. Thursday, March 14 to kick off the campaign and begin collecting change on March 18 during Spirit Week.

March 18 is "Super Hero Day" and everyone can dress up like a super hero for fighting cancer.

March 19 is the day to wear something that "glows" to school.

The whole family can participate in the Glow Run from 6 to 7 p.m. March 19 and win a glow bracelet for every lap completed until the supply runs out. Anyone can participate for $5 with a $20 maximum fee for a family. The goal is 200 to 300 participants.

The course will be indoors or outdoors if the weather is nice.

At 6:50 p.m. the raffle will begin. Raffle tickets are $1 each.

Prizes were donated for the Glow Run raffle and include Fun N Stuff, COSI, In Good Health, Cleveland Monsters (hockey), National Aviary in Pittsburg, Pittsburg Zoo, Applebee's, Anytime Fitness, African Safari Wildlife Park, Akron Rubber Ducks, Oriental Trading Co., CVS, Ben & Jerry, Scene 75, The Beach Waterpark, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Adrenaline Monkey, Young Living, Cinemark, Teresa’s Pizza, Cleveland MetroParks Zoo, Goldfish swim school, First Watch, IX Center Amusement Park, Gymnastic World Broadview Heights, John Robert’s Salon and more.

For those who can't attend the Glow Run but want to donate, go to

March 20 is "Stuck for a Buck Day" and students can buy duct tape for $1 a foot and duct tape Principal Dr. Jaqueline O'Mara to the wall.

March 21 is "Wear Orange or Green," the colors for leukemia and lymphoma awareness.

March 22 is "Team up for Cancer Day" and students can wear their favorite sport team shirt or jersey to school for the final day of collection.

The donations will be counted March 25 and announced at school. The goal is $5,000.

Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or