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Pupils not clowning about cash

Ronald McDonald got some money from Hillsborough County school kids this week and it wasn't for hamburgers or french fries.

The money was from a fund-raiser to help build the new Ronald McDonald House on Tampa's Davis Islands behind Tampa General Hospital.

To earn the $5 he contributed, Michael Lewis, 7, washed dishes and watched the baby while his mom took a nap.

Kari Lipschatz, 6, earned three quarters for doing dishes at her house.

And Elizabeth Spillers, 10, brought in $5 from her allowance for doing housework.

All three children and the rest of the pupils at Lake Magdalene Elementary School did their fair share to raise more than $1,000.

When combined with matching funds contributed by an anonymous donor, Lake Magdalene raised $2,088, the highest amount raised by any of the participating schools in Hillsborough County.

McDonald's accepted the $17,231.16 check from the Hillsborough County school system, enough to build and furnish a bedroom.

Laura Carter, mother of 8-year-old Joey, told the children what the Ronald McDonald House meant to her when her son was born.

"He was born two months early with heart problems," she told the 1,100 pupils and their teachers and guests at the school Wednesday morning. "He was transferred to All Children's Hospital from Lakeland and we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House."

The house provides rooms for parents of hospitalized children for only $5 a night. Mrs. Carter said she has stayed at the house several times over the years and now volunteers on weekends to help others.

The Tampa house is scheduled to open soon.

Ronald was delighted to accept the check.

"On behalf of all my friends in McDonald Land and everyone who uses the house I thank you," he said.

Several sixth-graders presented the check decorated with a manatee, the school's mascot, to the red-haired clown. They were Jennifer Rolfes, Mike Brady, David Lee, Mariangie Vazquez and Lindsay Tolton.