VALDOSTA -- Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Pine Grove Elementary School did not celebrate Valentine's Day with cupcakes or candy.

Instead, these students donated the money they would have spent on a party to the American Red Cross to help victims of the recent tsunami. Pine Grove Elementary Counselor Jackie Williams said the students were given a choice as to how they would spend their day and they voted to sacrifice the yearly festivities.

"There were children who came in Monday morning and emptied their piggy banks because they wanted to help families who were affected by this tragic natural disaster," she said.

Heather Ellis, who has two children at Pine Grove Elementary School, made stickers for each student who made a donation. The stickers said "PGE, Sending a Wave of Love for Tsunami Relief."

Ellis said she got involved with the project because she wanted each child to know that his or her sacrifice was worthwhile.

"It was a very sweet experience to watch the children bring in their pennies, nickels, and dimes," she added.

Several local community partners helped the total increase throughout the day. The two business members of the Pine Grove Elementary School Council, Gail Stephens of Bemiss Citizen's Bank and Tony Richards of Beef O'Brady's, donated $150 each. Lorissa and Michael Miller, parents of a Pine Grove Elementary School student and owners of Miracle Ear, gave $1,000.

Although students in the prekindergarten, first- and third-grade classes still had their parties, many of them chose to contribute to the cause as well. At the end of the day, the grand total of student contributions and community support was $3,012.70.

Penelope White, director of the American Red Cross, accepted the check from Principal Mickie Fisher.

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