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Ripon High Coin War breaks out
Ripon High students, from left, Micheal Regalo, Jack Nelson, Patrick Nelson, Hailey Johnson, Rhet Herrin, and Marisa Regalo pose with their Coin Wars jar. Ripons annual February fundraiser benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. - photo by Photo Contributed


If you’d like to contribute coins to the Ripon High fundraiser, please contact Ripon High Activities Director Jill Mortensen at

Drake Vizarra and the Ripon High student body want your coins and they’re willing to go to great lengths to get them, too.

Even if it means venturing outside of campus.

Ripon High launched its annual Coin War fundraiser on Monday, pitting the boys versus the girls in a spirited six-week competition. All proceeds will be donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients program.

In the past, the Indians have donated more than $3,400 to help fund a cure.

Last year alone, Ripon raised nearly $3,000, nearly doubling its total from 2012, as the fundraiser took on extra significance. The student body honored the late brother of Tyler Swortfiguer, then a senior football standout.

Schnietman lost his battle with blood cancer in late January. He was only 3.

Swortfiguer was presented with a ceremonial oversized check drawn by fellow student Anissa Sanchez during an end-of-competition, school-wide rally. The final number was “mind-blowing,” said Ripon High Activities Director Jill Mortensen.

Vizarra isn’t sure Ripon High can top last year’s total, but the sophomore leadership student says they’ll certainly try.

More than 650 high schools participated in Pennies for Patients last year. In 2012, the program raised more than $550,000. During that time, Ripon High has been a small but influential part of that success.

“I know our leadership class wants to bring in the best money and donations from our school and really represent Ripon High,” Vizarra said.

The coin drive will feature a few familiar elements: Jars in each classroom, water jugs in the cafeteria, donation boxes at the basketball games and other after-school activities, as well as students, like Vizarra, encouraging others to give up the loose change collecting in their pockets or backpacks or between their couch cushions at home.

“I’ll be going up to people and asking ‘What do you have in your pocket?’ If they pull out change, I’ll be like ‘Throw it in here for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,’ ” said Vizarra, the ASB Executive Board Member. “I don’t feel guilty at all. They’re fortunate enough to not have it (cancer). I know if they were in a position where they did have it, they’d want the money. I know I’d want the money to try to help save myself.”

The battle lines are drawn. It is boys versus girls in an all-out pursuit of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, 50 cent and dollar pieces. All coins count toward the month-end total, while bills sabotage the opposing team’s total.

Throw in a dollar bill and $1 will be subtracted from the opponent.

Last year, the spirit of competition helped carry the contest. Teachers matched their students’ donations, while others engaged in one-on-one challenges.  Two students, Eddie Menchaca and Roberto Alvarez, pledged to donate a $1 a day.

The newest wrinkle: The leadership class will include the community, placing donation boxes at popular locations throughout Ripon’s downtown corridor and the Jack Tone off-ramp along Highway 99. Those stores will include:  Pizza Plus, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Friend’s Salon and Subway among others.

Vizarra says the student body is willing to go great lengths to fund a cure – a show of character and community that isn’t lost on the teenager.

“I’ve had people in my family with cancer; my mom had cancer. To me, it means a lot to give back to them,” he added. “These people didn’t want to have cancer. It’s sad to see people die from it, especially when we don’t have a cure.

“For our school to put anything toward it to find a cure is amazing. We want to give back to those less fortunate.”