Youngster Help Paid in Pennies by Estranged Virginia Father Prompts Big Donations to Home Abuse Shelter

There has been an unintended, uplifting consequence in the spiteful gesture of an estranged father who made his final child support payment in pennies.

Mom Raven Sickal told Inside Edition Digital on Monday that her ex-husband’s act had been humiliating for her and her 18-year-old daughter, Avery Sanford. But Avery decided to take the high road, and she donated the $800 in pennies dumped at mother’s Virginia home to a domestic abuse shelter in their area.

What followed was an outpouring of money to Safe Harbor. More than $47,000 has been donated to the Virginia nonprofit in the days following Sanford’s act. The money has flowed from spots across the nation and the globe.

“That’s been the most positive thing to come out of this,” said Sickal. “I cried. I didn’t expect it. I just cried because of the generosity,” she said. 

“We’re just glad that we were able to help some people. I know that they do a lot of really good, positive things for people,” the mother said of work done by Safe Harbor.

“I’ve had a couple of girlfriends who were in domestic abuse situations, who needed help and a place to go,” she said, and Safe Harbor provided that.

Sickal said she didn’t know what was going on when a vehicle pulled to the curb in front of her house and began dumping a trailer full of coins. She hadn’t seen her ex-husband for years, she said, and didn’t know it was him until he said, “It’s your final child support payment,” and drove off.

Avery and her father have long been estranged, Sickal said. The high school student and her friends got snow shovels and scooped the mountain of pennies into several coolers, the mom said. “I wasn’t going to accept money that way. I was going to leave it in the street, I was just so appalled by it.”

But Avery, who is mature beyond her years, decided to make something positive out of a very negative act, her mother said. She and her mom gave the money to Safe Harbor, and word quickly spread on social media, leading to the flood of donations to the organization.

“It just got picked up everywhere,” Cathy Easter, the group’s executive director, told Inside Edition Digital Monday. “It’s just been amazing. This has just totally overwhelmed us,” she said.

Donations have arrived from Europe and Canada, in amounts ranging from $5 to $2,000, accompanied by notes from fathers and the children of divorce.

“I think this story has just touched a lot of hearts,” Easter said. Safe Harbor is a small service agency, she said. “We’ve never experienced anything like this.”

And it couldn’t have come at a better time, she said. The group had just learned it was losing their major source of government funding.

“This is just a godsend. I can’t tell you how much this means to us,” she said.

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