Americans throw away about forty billion cans and bottles every year. We all know they end up in landfills, but did you know you can save them and help a fantastic Iowa charity?
Herb Miller started collecting cans and bottles last year after he noticed how many were being thrown away on DMACC’s campus, where he’s a student. When he saw a video about the Children’s Cancer Connection, Herb knew just what to do with the trash he was saving. “I just couldn’t imagine life if I took my kid to the doctor and he said, the white blood count just isn’t right,” says Herb. “I have beautiful kids that are healthy, that’s why I’m doing this.” People in Nevada are part of the effort. A few weeks ago they’d rounded up so many bags of cans and bottles there wasn’t room in the truck Herb had driven from Waukee.
The donations help kids like Anna Richmond and her family. “We didn’t know where to go, what to do, where to turn,” says Anna’s mom Melody Massoth when she describes getting the diagnosis of Leukemia in 2009. Anna was just four years old. “It’s just indescribable. A complete panic sets in and then there’s denial. You start those stages of grieving immediately, thinking this can’t be true.”
Learning your child has cancer is terrifying, but it’s the treatment that really takes a toll. From steroids that cause crabbiness and weight gain, to chemotherapy that causes kids to lose weight and hair, it’s awful for the whole family. “There’s no ignoring it or pretending it didn’t happen,” explains Melody, “it’s reality. It becomes your life.”
Children’s Cancer Connection helps families live through it the nightmare. “We rely hugely on volunteers,” says Tiffany Spinner, the director of donor relations. “In 2010 we used over 40,000 volunteer hours.” That translates to about half a million dollars. Just by collecting cans, Herb ended up raising about $1,700 last year. It might not sound like much but Spinner says $1750 covers a cabin full of kids at summer camp. It’s a huge impact.
Melody had trouble explaining what it means to her family. “It’s not even about the money. It’s about somebody caring so much, out of nowhere that somebody wants to help you. The kindness of random people is amazing. That’s the blessing we’ve found in all of this.”
Anna got to go to camp last year. Her favorite thing there is riding horses. At camp, kids just get to be kids. The only difference is, they’ve experienced a life-threatening disease. And that’s why the people of Nevada pitched in with the can collection. Three kids in town are living with cancer. Jolene Messerli’s daughter Peyton is one of them. “Our friends bought a car from Herb,” she says, “that’s how we found out about him collecting cans!” Herb works at Shottenkirk Chevy in Waukee. You might call it Command Central for this year’s collection. The dealership is donating $50 for every car, truck or van that’s sold the week of Memorial Day. Herb’s goal is to raise $10,000. “Here’s a thought,” he says, “what if one hundred people did the same things I’m doing. Just think of the results we’d have then!”