Howard Ellis students collect 1 million pull tabs

Published 3:45 pm Wednesday, June 2, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- After a year of saving aluminum can pull-tabs, Howard Ellis students achieved their lofty goal of collecting one million tabs to benefit the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis.
The collection began as a personal mission to save the pull-tabs for a friend by Howard teacher Margaret Whitmer and it eventually evolved into a community effort that produced more than one million tabs.
The Ronald McDonald House Pop Tab Collection Program is a nationwide fundraiser used to help support the facilities that serve as a "home-away-from-home" for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.
In return for their stay, the families are asked for a small donation ranging from $5 to $20 per day. If the family can not afford to donate, the stay is free. So, it is through donations and fundraisers like the tab collection program that the Ronald McDonald Houses are made possible.
Whitmer started collecting her pull tabs for her friend, Merrylin Tretheway, who has spent time at Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis with her granddaughter who has suffered from kidney problems since birth.
She saved each tab, but because she does not drink that much pop, the collection got off to a seemingly slow start.
As the beginning of the school year approached last year, Whitmer had the idea to start a school-wide pull-tab collection. And she set her sights high with the goal of obtaining a total of one million.
And considering that one million tabs equals about 35,700 per class or 1,700 per student, that goal was a challenge indeed.
She said the Ronald McDonald House receives 30 to 50 cents per pound of recycled tabs, which will translate into about a $300 to $500 donation from Howard-Ellis Elementary.
On Tuesday afternoon, Whitmer led an assembly in the gymnasium to celebrate the school's astounding feat.
Tretheway, who was one of the speakers at Tuesday's program, said she excited about Whitmer's idea to include the school, but she never thought it would really result in one million.
Tretheway, who donated her kidney to her 12-year-old granddaughter Michelle Tobisz, spoke about the benefits and importance of having a place like the Ronald McDonald House.
By providing a comfortable and supportive atmosphere, Ronald McDonald Houses provide a relaxing place for families going through a difficult time with their seriously ill children, Tretheway explained.
She and family members spent 52 days at a Ronald McDonald House about 10 years ago, when her then one-year-old daughter was suffering from kidney failure.
She compared it to a hotel like atmosphere that provides families with rooms, beds, a kitchen area and various supplies.
Former Howard-Ellis student Darla Thomas, whose daughter Chelsea has spent time at the Ronald McDonald House in Kalamazoo because of complications associated with an organ duplication disorder, also spoke to the school on Tuesday.
She also listed the benefits of staying at a Ronald McDonald House and told the children how this money will help another family that is going through a difficult time.
The two highest collecting classes at Howard-Ellis will be rewarded with class parties from the school's PTO.
Judith Brown's afternoon kindergarten class led the way with a total of 79,935 and Carla Suckle's fifth grade class came in second with 74,418 tabs.