It all began in the fall of 2009 during a discussion by a group of students at Horn Lake Middle School and their teachers, Susan Powell and Melissa (Swartz) Wheeler. The teachers’ passion for increasing awareness about the Holocaust sparked an idea that went on to become the “Pennies Project”.

The Pennies Project was a simple concept: collect one and a half million pennies in memory of the 1.5 million Jewish children (out of the 1.6 million who lived in German-controlled territories) who perished during the Holocaust.

The students went to work writing letters to actors, athletes and politicians and asking everyone they could think of for donations.

The following year, a local home school group, Gen SC, asked to join them, and what a tremendous asset they became.

The owner of Peabody Place Mall gave the students permission to scoop up all the coins in the fountain. There was a contagious excitement as the number of pennies grew.

After three and a half years, students were finally able to achieve their goal: they had 1.5 million pennies in remembrance of the children of the Holocaust.

The completion of this special project led to the formation of the Unknown Child Foundation, Inc., organized for the purpose of creating a children’s Holocaust memorial.

The Unknown Child Foundation commissioned artist Rick Wienecke from Israel to create the sculpture of the Unknown Child, and engaged architect Doug Thornton of Hernando, Mississippi, to design the Memorial. UCF looks forward to building the Memorial remembering the beloved children of the Holocaust and showcasing the over 8,000 pounds of pennies collected by students.