Mike Hayes of Rochelle, Illinois, long ago proved he was one…

Mike Hayes of Rochelle, Illinois, long ago proved he was one of the more clever types. Back in 1987, while a chemistry freshman at the University of Illinois, he came up with a novel idea to solve his tuition and college expenses problem. Figuring that just about anyone could spare a penny, he brazenly asked everyone to do it.

He wrote to Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, asking him to request each of his readers send Hayes a penny. The notion tickled the veteran columnist’s fancy enough that he was willing to go along with it.

You wouldn’t think a scheme like that would be wildly successful. But it was.

In less than a month, the “Many Pennies for Mike” fund was up to the equivalent of 2.3 million pennies. Not everyone was content to send merely a penny  — many sent nickels, dimes, quarters and even more. There’s something lovable about a kid who asks you for a penny. Ask Debra Sue Maffett, Miss America 1983. Not only did she send a cheque for $25, but her donation was accompanied by a letter saying she admired him. “She even signed the letter ‘Love,’” Miksaid.

Donations were received from every state in the United States, plus Mexico, Canada, and the Bahamas. Yes, he ended up with the $28,000 he’d set out to get.

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