A local teenager collects pennies to place at the graves of U.S. veterans to honor them for their service.
Connor Ickes, 16, started Connor’s Penny Project two years ago after he visited Antietam National Cemetery near Sharpsburg, Maryland, with his mother.
“And I noticed there’s like coins on the headstones for the deceased,” he said. “There’s like pennies on some, nickels on one, dimes on another.”
Seeing those coins and knowing people who serve in the military made it a personal mission for Connor.
“My cousin, he serves in the military, and I have a really good friend of ours that’s in the Army,” he said.
That first year, Connor and his family and friends collected 5,000 — one for each person buried at the historic cemetery.
“A lot of people forget who helped our country and gave us this freedom and I don’t think anyone should be forgotten, so I wanted to have a memory for every person who served,” Connor said.
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This year, with the help of the community, Connor was able to collect the 5,000 pennies for the graves plus $1,000 to donate to the National Park Service.
Connor’s mother said her son has always gone out of his way to tell a service member thank you.
“It’s just something he believes in,” she said. “He’s very thankful and he knows what it means to be an American, the sacrifices to live free.”
Connor was adopted form Russia when he was 2 years old.
“The day we met when I adopted him, he came right to me,” his mother said. “There was just an immediate bond. There’s nothing I love more in this world than that boy.”
“I know I’m Russian, but I feel like 100 percent American,” Connor said.
And he’s already collecting pennies for next year's donation.