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EUGENE, Mo. — Cole R-5 Elementary School recently raised $4,100 for Bonnie Ahart, a well-loved community member who is battling cancer.

Using the theme "Small Things Can Make a Big Difference," students were encouraged to bring spare change in a "penny wars" fundraising contest between classes.

Ahart said she's thankful and proud of the school community for its generosity.

"Everybody has been very supportive and helps me stay positive throughout my battle," Ahart said. "It made me feel very special that they did that for me."

Kindergarten teachers Jennifer Horton and Kim Bax organized the fundraiser to give back to Ahart and her husband, who frequently donate money during school fundraisers and have donated concrete and other necessities through their business, A&W Concrete.

"They're always willing to donate and support the school," Horton said.

Ahart is much loved in the community and has babysat many of the children in the district. All of her children are Eugene alumni, and she has four children at Eugene Elementary, and three who will attend in the future.

"We just thought it was really important to support her and her family, especially since they're such a big asset to the community," Horton said.

Horton's kindergarten class won the penny wars contest, raising more than $495. The class earned a pizza party provided by Community Point Bank, which helped count the change.

Horton said she was "100 percent blown away" by how much money they raised during the two-week fundraiser.

"I think my expectation was $500 total, and when we met that easily in the first week, I was astounded," she said. "I had lots and lots of tears of joy."

When fourth-grader Jackson Bashore dumped in "tons and tons" of change, Horton asked if he was working hard for the pizza party.

"He said, 'No, Bonnie was my babysitter, and I have loved her since I was a little kid and wanted to show my support for her,'" Horton said.

Another student, kindergartner Daxton Boessen, went to his mom's work and asked for money for the fundraiser.

"His mom later messaged me, explaining how proud she was of him to be able to perfectly explain who it was for and why we were raising money," Horton said.

When school staff took the change to Community Point Bank, some customers even donated their spare change, Horton said.

"It was overwhelming the support that we not only received from the students, but the community," she said. "It was just awesome to see the outpouring of love for her and her kids and grandkids."

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