When Winchester Trail Elementary School teachers Emily Adams and Lydia Tokarz decided to sponsor a schoolwide penny war to benefit the Red Cross Haiti relief effort, they hoped students would raise $1,000.

When Winchester Trail Elementary School teachers Emily Adams and Lydia Tokarz decided to sponsor a schoolwide penny war to benefit the Red Cross Haiti relief effort, they hoped students would raise $1,000.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the penny war total had reached $8,000, with an additional carload of change yet to be counted.

Parent volunteers were still counting thousands of pennies and coins through Tuesday afternoon, two school days after the penny war ended. The final tally was $9,328.81.

"I am so proud of these kids," Tokarz said. "I never thought in a million years that we would raise $9,000."

The penny war was held Jan. 19-22, and the school's 873 students in third through fifth grades were invited to participate. Every morning, students filled gallon milk jugs with their donations.

A penny earned each homeroom one point, while silver coins and bills subtracted from the classroom point total. As students raced to fill their homeroom jugs with pennies, they planned surprise attacks, donating silver and bills to the other classroom jugs.

Points were tallied daily. The homeroom with the highest point total in each grade level won an ice cream party.

Patti Rinehart has two children at Winchester Trail, a third-grader and a fifth-grader. She happened to be in the school office last Wednesday.

Upon seeing all the change students had donated during the first day of the contest, Rinehart stepped up to help, offering to take the money to local banks to be counted.

She said a fun part of the penny war was hearing the students strategize.

"Many students were really excited and coming up with strategies for how their class would win," Rinehart said. "But at the same time, they were very reflective on what had happened in Haiti, and how thankful they were that they haven't had to go through anything like that."

A popular strategy was to save all the pennies for Friday, the last day of the war.

As she walked through the school hallways last Friday, Tokarz said everywhere she looked, students were "counting, counting, counting."

"On Friday alone, most classes brought in $150 in pennies," she said.

As parents dropped off their children on Friday morning, they reported that some of the local banks had completely run out of pennies.

Tokarz said counting and organizing the thousands of pennies was a monumental task that required the help of several volunteers.

"It really brought us together and encouraged a sense of community," she said.

Fairfield National Bank in Reynoldsburg offered free use of its Coinstar machine and donated $250 to the total. The National City branch on Main Street in Reynoldsburg also helped count the change for the official tally.

"We pretty much ran their machines non-stop," Rinehart said.

On the final day of the penny war, fifth-graders on the school's Friday video announcement crew designed a photo montage of images from the Haiti earthquake, which played to the REM song "Fall On Me."

"The students watched in silence," Tokarz said in a letter she composed Friday afternoon. "They were not the slightest bit worried about what homeroom would win the ice cream party for the most points because at that moment, they knew that the children in Haiti would not be eating ice cream."

Rinehart said sometimes when children watch the news, they feel disconnected.

Seeing the pictures from Haiti, however, "really affected them," she said. "This was a way for them to help in a way that they understand."