Seven-year-old Jasai Hawkins came home from school last week on a mission.
McKinley K-8 had given the second-grader an animal cracker box-sized container to fill with spare change, to be given to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Pennies for Patients. The society encourages students to fill their collection boxes with spare change to help fund blood cancer research for kids and adults.
But that box wasn't big enough for Jasai.
He went up to his room and emptied his piggy bank, an empty water jug. He had been saving up for a couple of years, he said, and it had to go toward something special.
"So I want to give it away to cancer (research)," Jasai said.
The change quickly outgrew the box and ripped through Ziploc bags, so he decided to carry it all to school in his backpack.
For the kids: But that wasn't easy, either.
"His little back was hurting," said his mom, Tanoue Freeland.
She said she suggested he take some change one day and some the next day.
"And he's like, 'No, these kids need it right away, Mom,'" she said.
No one knows for sure how much change it was -- Freeland estimates it was somewhere between $20 and $30 -- but Jasai gave all the money in his jug.
"Every last penny, dime, nickel that was in there," she said.
The program offers incentives to classrooms, such as a pizza party, but Freeland said her son didn't look at it that way.
"He was more concerned with the fact that it was for kids with cancer," she said.
Giving back: Although the research is for blood cancers that affect patients of all ages, kids have a special role in fundraising, said Hannah Reagan, campaign specialist for the society's local school and youth programs.
Leukemia is one of the most common childhood cancers, and the program features six Honored Heroes, local student survivors of blood cancer, she said.
When Reagan heard Jasai's story, she said she was moved.
"It's really amazing because the whole point of this program is to learn about giving back and doing something bigger than yourself," she said.
It's commendable for a child to contribute pennies to fight cancer, Reagan said.
"And the fact that he's willing to give all his pennies -- it's inspirational for his peers," she said.
But the York City boy said it was simply money well spent.