Harker Heights Elementary School students and their families who helped raise money for leukemia research are treated to a pasta party April 15.

Courtesy photo

Harker Heights Elementary School held a pasta party April 15 for students and their families who helped raise money for leukemia research in honor of Terrance Hunter, a student who lost his battle with the disease last year.

The event was part of Olive Garden’s Pasta for Pennies, a national fundraising campaign to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Students brought in more than $6,000 in change over a three week period.

Terrance’s sister, Sariah Hunter, a fifth-grader, thought of the idea for the fundraiser after her brother died from acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2012 at the age of 4.

She began planning the fundraiser in November, and said the experience was “fun and a great idea to help other kids.”

Diana Hunter expressed pride in both her daughter and the school for the tribute to her son.

“I think this was a great opportunity for my kids to do something in memory of their brother as well as to help the school make a difference,” she said.

The dinner was sponsored by Olive Garden, which donated breadsticks to the event. The school provided the rest of the meal.

Initially, the party was to be given to the class that earned the most money. After hearing about the students’ dedication to the project, dinner was extended to the eight highest grossing classes from first to fifth grades, said Principal Carolyn Dugger.

“We’ve all worked today. Teachers, aides and everyone else in the building have pitched in to thank these children for what they’ve done,” she said.

At the end of the night, Dugger and the Hunter family gathered on the cafeteria’s stage to give thanks and say a prayer in honor of Terrance.

“Most of the children here didn’t even know Terrance, but they brought in money because they wanted to make a difference,” Dugger said. “They knew their pennies were as important as any check that you could write.”

Sariah also raised more than $100 outside of school, her mom said.

“She made her own box and collected money from churches and people around the neighborhood before the donation even started at the school.”

Dugger said the school plans to make the fundraiser an annual event.

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