By Melissa Garcia

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Elementary students in Aurora are coming together for kids devastated by California’s Camp Fire. Cherry Creek School District’s Ponderosa Elementary participated in a national campaign called “Pennies for Ponderosa.”

(credit: Cherry Creek Schools)

It’s an effort to raise money for the children who lost their school of the same name in Paradise, Calif.

Some of the 640 kindergarten through 6th graders at Aurora’s Ponderosa spent three weeks raising $1,028.

(credit: CBS)

“I helped a lot with that,” said Nemo Simmons, a 1st grader.

While Nemo brought in jars full of pennies, other students, like 5th grader Caleb Workman, collected cash by the bag full.

(credit: Cherry Creek Schools)

“We had to start dragging the pennies on the ground because of how much there was,” Caleb told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

“I used my own money to give to the school to help the burned-down school,” said Karter Alexander, a 4th grader. “(From) my piggy bank.”

Destruction from the Camp Fire (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP)

The students in Paradise live more than 1,000 miles away from the helping hands in Aurora. The raging blaze destroyed their school in November, and the displaced students had to relocate to temporary classrooms.

“That’s pretty sad,” said Cecilia Atkins, another 5th grader who participated in the fundraiser. “I would be super sad if my school got burnt down because we wouldn’t have any education.”

Cecilia Atkins (credit: CBS)

Sarah Frederick, an instruction coach at Ponderosa in Aurora said local students learned a valuable lesson too.

“The impact that we can have in helping them as they begin to rebuild, buy supplies and materials,” Frederick said. “And I think it was important for students to understand the devastation also, the natural disaster.”

Students hope the pennies and other coins will eventually help to rebuild the Paradise kids’ place of learning.

(credit: CBS)

“California kids, if you’re watching, that goes to this school, I just hope you guys get your school back,” Nemo said.

The money, now in the mail in the form of a check, is on its way to the sister school in Paradise.

In addition to Ponderosa’s efforts, students at Cherokee Trail High School raised money through a “Be Kind” campaign. The teens brought in nearly $4,000 for Camp Fire firefighters and survivors across Butte County, California.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to


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