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Penny Wars at Saint John Paul the Great

Since 2012, students at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries have participated in the annual House of Ruiz Penny Wars. The weeklong contest between the school’s eight houses offers an opportunity for friendly competition and unification of the student body in support of a common goal. In this case, the goal is to raise money for a cause special to the school community.  


The Penny Wars was launched to raise money and awareness for Embracing Grace, a ministry started by Paula and Rich Stryker, one of John Paul the Great’s founding families. Embracing Grace offers supportive care for families who receive unexpected prenatal diagnoses. Three Stryker children, Sean (class of 2013), Sydney (class of 2014), and Camryn (class of 2018) helped their parents start this ministry after the birth of their sister Corrine in 2011. Corrine was diagnosed prenatally with holoprosencephaly and hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and lived only briefly after being born. This experience prompted the Stryker family to begin a ministry to support other families undergoing similar experiences. Embracing Grace offers peer support to encourage and love the family while they welcome their new child into the world.


This year, the Penny Wars raised more than $900 for the ministry. Students, teachers and faculty members cracked open their piggy banks and brought in pennies, nickels, dimes and dollars to raise money and win house points. Pennies counted as positive points toward one’s own house and all other denominations counted as negative points against other houses. The competition was close, but the House of Diego (named after St. Juan Diego) brought in the most pennies and won the competition. The points earned from the competition count toward the overall goal of House of the Year, awarded to the house with the most points.


The Penny Wars is a great example of the spirit of charity for God and neighbor present in the school community. The love, encouragement and hope displayed by the students during the Penny Wars is infectious and uplifting. Students learn a commitment to preserving the dignity of human life through the bioethics curriculum and active faith life, and activities and events such as the Penny Wars bring out the desire to serve with Christ-like charity. The students and faculty long to uphold the value of every person and seek to spread this passion to the rest of the world. 




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017