Students at Divine Mercy Academy, formerly known as St. Bernadette Catholic School, know it’s close to Catholic Schools Week when the special plastic jugs start appearing on their teachers desks. For the past 20 years, the jugs, also known as ‘Gina Jugs’, make their annual appearance shortly after the students return from their holiday break. Students know that dropping some spare change or bills into the jugs is an act of love, remembrance and generosity for the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation and two former students.
The annual tradition began when Gina and Chuckie Mohan, children of UMDF founder, Charles A. Mohan, Jr., were students at the school. While everyone knew Gina and Chuckie, they really didn’t know much about the illness that impacted Gina, mitochondrial disease. Former principal, Sister Carol Arch, felt it would be a great learning experience for the students to be helpful to others and to look out for other students who were sick, like Gina. Sr. Carol and her students were among the first to kick off UMDF’s ‘Coins for a Cure’ program. Instead of buying snacks at lunch, her students put their money into a ‘Gina Jug’ in their classroom. The jugs displayed a picture of their fellow student, Gina, and provided facts about mitochondrial disease and the illness that would take her life.
Over the years, the classrooms competed to see which would raise the most amount of money. Prizes were awarded to the winning classrooms. In later years, older students were rewarded with a field trip to mitochondrial disease research labs at the University of Pittsburgh where they could learn first-hand about the work underway on potential treatments and cures.
The ‘Gina Jug’ and the Coins for a Cure program remains a constant at Divine Mercy Academy, and 2021 marks the 20th year in a row that students will participate. This year, things are different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the students and staff at Divine Mercy Academy won’t let the virus stop their love for Gina and will be participating online. Each classroom set up a UMDF ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY) fundraising page where their contributions are logged. Each classroom can track donations and see who is leading in their annual competition.
Amazingly, the Coins for a Cure program at the school is recognized as the longest running continuous UMDF fundraiser. Over the years, students have raised more than $33,000.
To learn more about the UMDF’s Coins for a Cure Program, or other ‘Do It Yourself’ fundraisers contact UMDF Special Events Manager, Tania Hanscom.