An aquarium is using old wishing coins to help care for its animals

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(CBS News)-For one aquarium, the coins tossed into its waterfall as wishes have become something more than submerged hopes and dreams. The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores said it’s transforming the forgotten change into cold, hard cash.

The public aquarium said in a Facebook post Saturday that its staff turned off its 30-foot-tall “Smoky Mountain” waterfall and rounded up all of the change visitors had tossed in. 

At the time, it said approximately 100 gallons of coins had been cleaned and sorted. The change “will go toward the general care of the aquarium and animals during this time,” the aquarium wrote.

The aquarium encouraged people to guess how much money was in the waterfall — and received plenty of responses in the comment section.

In another Facebook update on Wednesday about the project, the aquarium said it was “taking longer than anticipated to sort, clean and count” the nearly 14 years of coins from the waterfall. It said it would post the total amount collected next week.

The aquarium also added that a portion of the change had been sent to an automated coin counter at a local bank, adding that it took about four hours to count nine crates of the findings. 

The aquarium, along with the other state-operated North Carolina Aquarium locations, has been temporarily closed to the public since March 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the North Carolina Aquariums website

At the time the aquariums said essential staff would “remain on-site to care for thousands of animals in aquarium care” at its various locations. Additional staff would work onsite and at home to “ensure the Aquarium will be ready to re-open and welcome guests back once this critical situation has subsided.”

North Carolina remains in “Safer at Home Phase 2” after the phase was extended earlier this month until at least September 11. At the earliest, the aquariums said locations could re-open to the public at some point after that date, when the state moves on to Phase 3. But it emphasized that “no date has yet been set.”

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