Can tabs bring joy to sick kids – so collect them

Walking into a Castleton Elementary School fourth grade classroom with about 30 excited faces ready to listen, Tammy Keech Arruda, with a can tab chain around her neck, began explaining her tab collection project that raises money for Shriners Hospitals for Children. It’s funny how something so small, something so simple can make such a big difference in the lives of ill children. The tab is the only pure aluminum part of the can and Shriners Hospitals – through efforts like Arruda’s — collect them to be recycled.

The hospitals currently get between 45 to 65 cents per pound of the recycled tabs and it takes 1,200 to 1,400 tabs to make a pound.

With it costing $1.6 million dollars every day to operate the 22 hospitals located around the United States, Mexico and Canada, every tab helps to raise money to aid children at Shriners hospitals who are burn victims, have orthopedic conditions, spinal cord injuries and other serious health problems. Children under the age of 18 are accepted to these hospitals and the cost. Care is free.

“Every year it gets a little bigger,” Arruda said of the tab project. “I’m hoping by next year to have it in all the schools in our district.”

Arruda began this project 10 years ago when her father, who was a Shriner, passed away.

“Friends kept giving me tabs to give to my dad,” Arruda said passing a picture around to the class of her father in his Shriners fez, while explaining how she thought it would be great to start a program with students.

“I chose fourth graders because they are young enough that they listen to what you say,” Arruda said calling the kids “little messengers” because they like to tell everyone about what they have learned.

The name of the project is Collecting & Connecting, Together for Children. Arruda has pioneered this tab collection program at Castleton Elementary School, the Village School and Castleton State College.

Castleton Village school seventh and eighth graders must complete 10 hours of community service each year and the tab project is one program they get involved in. The students earn their community service hours be stringing the can tabs and last year went to the beverage center for three hours to remove tabs from cans.

“They get so hyped up about it,” Arruda said, explaining how each student gets a string the length of their body and are responsible for filling it with tabs by the end of the school year. The strings are then tied together in May to see how far it will go. Last year there was approximately 550 feet of stringed tabs from the college and the elementary and village school.

The goal for this year is for the string to run the length of Seminary Street to the top of the steps of Woodruff Hall.

Each year the project has raised more money than the previous year, Arruda said. Last year $1,100 was raised. The money was split between the Springfield and Boston, Mass. hospitals because they treat children from this area. The money raised from the tabs can fund medical needs, but p[roject organizers decided they’d rather fund non-medical items like toys and birthday parties for the children.

“The money goes to the kinds of things that make them feel at home,” Arruda said. “It’s kids helping kids.”

Jan Rousse, assistant director at The Stafford Center for Support and Study of the Community here at Castleton, has helped to bring the tab program to the college. C.S.C. has been involved with the program for five or six years, but the success of the program here on campus is questionable.

“I never knew what they were for,” a senior standing near a collection bucket said. In the past, the sorority Zeta Omega, helped with the project but no longer does.

“I’m looking for someone to work with me in regards to this. It takes little time, just some planning,” Rousse said. In the past, Rousse took a bus of students to the Shriners hospitals in Springfield and Boston so they could see how the hospital works.

“It’s very rewarding and touches your heart,” she said. “Words can’t even express what they do for children.”

Tabs can be dropped off at bins located all around campus, at Jan Rousse’s office above the Coffee Cottage or call her office at 468-1371 to have them picked up.

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