They weren't exactly pennies from heaven, but the glittering shower of aluminum soda can tabs tossed into the air by local elementary school students added up to $500 for a Garden Grove charity.
Over the past five months, 550 Warren Elementary School students collected pop tops in an effort to reach 1 million, and this week they surpassed their goal, with a whopping 1,058,386 tabs.
On Friday morning, after a schoolwide ceremony to celebrate the successful recycling drive, about 20 students dived into their 6-foot-wide, 1,000-pound pile of pop tops and gleefully threw fistfuls of the shiny tabs into the air and at each other.
Third grade teacher Cathy Thompson said the drive started when she decided to trick students into learning math. To get the kids interested in counting, estimation, multiplication and weights, she asked them to imagine how much 1 million was, and then have them find out by collecting that many tabs.
"This is one of the ploys I used. They're just beginning to learn multiplication concepts. Now they've experienced it before they're learning it," she said.
Now, however, she wonders if her trick wasn't a little too successful: After transporting all the metal pull-tops in her 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass, the car needs new shock absorbers.
Students cheered when Thompson presented the check they earned to a representative from the Ronald McDonald House, which offers temporary living quarters for families with children undergoing treatment for life-threatening illnesses.
"This is wonderful. The people who stay really appreciate what (the children) do," Pat Wilson, manager of the house at 383 S. Batavia St. in Orange, said later. "When you see all these kids helping out, it really restores your faith in humanity."
Travis Coursey, 10, who collected 17,000 of the tabs by involving neighbors and relatives in the hunt, said he was interested less in winning the competition than he was in making money for the needy families: "I knew I was helping people. I put myself in their position. I didn't care if I lost, I just wanted to help people."