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Luray Caverns' gold mine for the community

Through the years, more than a million dollars has been mined from the Luray wishing well.

In the Shenandoah Valley the natural beauty of Luray Caverns has lured visitors underground since its discovery in 1878. Not only do they explore the winding caves, many leave something behind which has become a gold mine for the local community.

Luray Caverns is older than the dinosaurs. It's one of the most popular caverns in the United States. Tourists come by the millions.

It's also home to one of the most lucrative wishing wells on earth. Money is thrown into a pool like a busy toll booth. And, once a year it's cleaned out.

Making a wish is the easy part. Getting all of the coins to the bank is a different story.

"A lot of dirty work," says John Shaffer, who has worked at Luray Caverns for 40 years. "It's hard work. The money is shoveled out into buckets. They're probably 20 to 25 pounds. Put into bags. Wheelbarrows take them to the money to the entrance. We should get between 40 and 50 thousand dollars. That's usually a pretty good average."

Half way through the day everyone here is spent. That's when the reinforcements arrive.

The Luray High School football team come to the rescue.

The money is taken to an undisclosed location and cleaned. It's dried and then sorted.

Through the years, more than a million dollars has been mined from the Luray wishing well and every cent goes to charity.

"March of Dimes, The American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy, Juvenile Diabetes the list goes on and on," says Shaffer.

It takes about a month to sort all the money. They even get foreign currency. Once it's all counted, a secret, outside committee, not associated with Luray Caverns, determines which charities will receive the funds.

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