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Pennies by the Inch Celebrates 100 years

Posted at 2:13 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-09 16:13:08-04

Pennies by the Inch – the nation’s oldest grassroots fundraiser – is celebrating 100 years of helping young patients in need at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

While emphasizing the act of children giving to children, the fundraiser has inspired celebrities to give too, including Disney characters, actor and director Robert Redford, Marie Osmond, and former Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton.

Pennies by the Inch remains rooted in the concept that every penny counts, and anyone can make a difference for children at the hospital.

All donations to Pennies by the Inch benefit the area of greatest need at Primary Children’s Hospital, which is bringing critical care expertise to patients such as two-year-old Belle.

Shortly after her birth, Belle started struggling to keep food down. Concerned about dehydration, her parents took her to Primary Children’s Hospital, thinking she may be there overnight. Instead, Belle was hospitalized for one month. Her condition was a mystery.

Whole genome sequencing led to the diagnosis of a rare congenital disorder of glycosylation, which leads to issues including epilepsy and developmental delays. Belle also suffered from pneumonia requiring a breathing tube, sepsis, a life-threatening gastrointestinal bleed, collapsed lungs, and cardiac arrest. She was in the hospital for eight months.

“On many occasions, we almost lost her, but our tiny daughter pulled through,” Hailee Winegar, her mom, said. “It’s amazing to me to think that Pennies by the Inch is celebrating 100 years – or 36,500 days — of helping families like mine at Primary Children’s Hospital. I note the number of days because when your child is in the hospital, you have to take every day one at a time.”

One of those days brought a life-changing breakthrough for Belle: a blood transfusion that gave her the proteins her body couldn’t produce. Since the transfusion, Belle hasn’t needed any long hospital stays.

Today, Belle is a happy little girl who loves music, her brothers, the family cat and being outside. She uses a wheelchair, has epilepsy and cortical blindness, and comes to Primary Children’s monthly for treatments ranging from infusions to physical, occupational and vision therapies.

“Thanks to donations, Primary Children’s is a world-renowned hospital with top-notch doctors, nurses, therapists and more,” Hailee said. “Belle exudes pure joy, and her joy is contagious. Everyone can feel her light and her inner strength. My hope is that she has a joyful and fulfilled life. Belle may have a different path than most, but it will still be an amazing one.”

Historically, Pennies by the Inch has been a door-to-door fundraising campaign supported by volunteers in Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming. Volunteer engagement remains a cornerstone of Pennies by the Inch, and newer online giving opportunities allow schools, businesses, congregations, communities, and former patients and families all over the world to continue participating in the annual fundraiser.

The Pennies by the Inch 100th year coincides with the Primary Children’s Hospital centennial celebration.

Pennies by the Inch proceeds helped support patients at the original Primary Children’s Hospital, which opened in 1922 across the street from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Primary Children’s continues to provide specialized care to all children, regardless of background or ability to pay.

“Because of Pennies by the Inch, Primary Children’s has become what we believe to be the nation’s only hospital built for children, by children, and helped create the giving spirit for which our community is well known,” said Katy Welkie, RN, MBA, Primary Children’s Hospital chief executive officer and vice president of Intermountain Children’s Health.

“How inspiring it is to stand on the foundation for children’s healthcare that has been fortified over the years through gifts such as these, and to be able to continue our primary promise to put The Child First and Always at Primary Children’s as we build the model health system for generations of children to come,” Welkie added.

More information about how to give to Pennies by the Inch, start a fundraiser, and help patients at Primary Children’s Hospital is at PenniesByTheInch.org.