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Teen donates 80,000 ‘child support’ pennies dumped on lawn by estranged father

·3-min read
The family in Richmond neighbourhood scooped up the 80,000 pennies by using a shovel with the help of friends  (Screengrab/WTVR)
The family in Richmond neighbourhood scooped up the 80,000 pennies by using a shovel with the help of friends (Screengrab/WTVR)

A Virginia teenager has put a positive spin on what was an attempt to “embarrass” her family by donating 80,000 pennies dumped on the front lawn by her estranged father.

In CCTV footage from 21 May, a man is seen pulling up in front of a house and unloading a huge pile of pennies onto the lawn. It was his final child support payment to his ex-wife.

“My mom came out and was like, ‘What are you dumping in my yard?’” 18-year-old Avery Sanford told WTVR of the incident. “She didn’t know who it was until he shouted, ‘It’s your final child support payment."

The 18-year-old said it was a “hurtful and damaging” act and left an impact on her.

"It’s really hurtful and damaging to your kids when you do things like that. It doesn’t matter if they’re young or an adult, the actions of your parents will always have some effect on you," Ms Sanford said.

The teenager, who was days away from graduating from Deep Run High School, decided to collect the tens of thousands of pennies with a shovel, with the help of her mother and friends.

"It’s not just my mom he’s trying to embarrass, it’s also me and my sister and it’s upsetting that he didn’t consider that before he did that," Ms Sanford told WTVR.

The family said each penny will go to a support centre for survivors of sexual and domestic violence and human trafficking in Richmond, Virginia, known as Safe Harbor Shelter.

"Turning around and donating that money to moms and children in need, I feel like that really turns this situation into a positive. You can learn from it," Ms Sanford added.

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Cathy Easter, executive director of Safe Harbor, told The Washington Post: ”“They were able to turn such a negative experience [around], and what her daughter witnessed, into a positive”.

“They found a way to turn this around and not feel devastated about it,” added Ms Easter. She told The Post that since reports of the story went viral, donations to the shelter have risen by more than $5,000 (£3,544).

The teen said she has not spoken to her father in years.

Henrico County police confirmed to The Post that they were called to “a domestic-related incident” last month in which a large “[amount] of pennies in the roadway in front of the address” of Ms Sanford’s mother.

The father, who has not been identified, is facing no charges for dumping the pennies. It is estimated that 82,500 pennies were dumped, with his support payments at $825 (£585).

He said to WTVR that his actions were the result of pent-up frustration of 18 years but added he did not want to widen the rift between him and his daughter.

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