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Students collect can tabs for dialysis patients

June 14, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Feasting on ice cream in waffle cone cups, Mary Ramirez's fifth-grade students were enjoying the sweet and sticky rewards of success.

Ramirez's class collected the most can tabs in an overnight, "last-minute" drive for patients of the Ronald McDonald House who need dialysis.

The Blanche Charles Elementary School class donated 13,960 tabs to the drive, spearheaded by Nelida Rubio, a fourth-grade teacher.

Rubio explained she got the idea to have a can tab drive while drinking a soda at the Calexico Elks picnic Saturday.

"An older lady asked me for my can tab," said Rubio, explaining she had never heard of collecting tabs for dialysis.

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"One thousand tabs provide an hour of free dialysis through the Ronald McDonald House," said Rubio.

She said she thought it sounded like a good idea to do at the school and recruited the Calexico Elks to donate an ice cream party to the class that collected the most tabs.

"It was spur of the moment," she said with a laugh.

Rubio passed out a flyer explaining the drive to teachers Monday afternoon; the contest was over by lunch Tuesday.

"From Monday to Tuesday we had close to 25,000. That was the amazing thing," Rubio enthused.

Her fourth-graders got involved sorting, counting and bagging tabs by the thousands.

"My class was really excited because we had second place with 2,000," said Rubio.

She added, "Kids are still collecting to the minute."

Rubio said she had at least a thousand more tabs were turned in after the contest was over.

Rubio said sixth-graders came in "in gowns and ties" to donate tabs they had collected at their graduation ceremony.

Ramirez said she didn't expect much from her students since they hadn't participated much in past school drives.

"I didn't think they'd bring in anything," she confessed.

Her class surprised her with its contribution.

"As we were counting they'd say, ‘Here's another hour!' They connected it to the number of hours (of dialysis) not to the number of tabs," said Ramirez proudly.

Ramirez's student Jose Marquez, 10, explained his contribution.

"I just looked in the trash around the neighborhood," said Jose, adding he asked neighbors for their can tabs, too.

Ricardo Calles, 11, had a head start. His family collects soda cans to recycle, so he competed with his second-grade brother to take the tabs off the cans.

"I just wanted to, because I like to help people," said Ricardo of why he joined in the drive.

Adrian Cortes, 10, said his uncle, who saves cans to recycle, was his source.

"I woke up in the morning and remembered about it and just started taking them off," said Adrian.

He guessed it took him an hour to take the tabs off of what he estimated to be his contribution: 180 tabs.

"I thought it was a good chance to help," he said.

Leslie Negrete, 10, had her own reasons for collecting tabs: "Because I am healthy and I thought if I can do it to make another kid healthy, then I should bring them."

The student who brought in the most from Ramirez's class was Dionisio Muñoz, 10.

She estimated he brought in more than 10,000 tabs.

"My grandpa gave them to me," explained Dionisio.

"I wanted to help people," he said, adding the best part of his experience was knowing "I'm going to help people that need it."

Rubio and Ramirez both said they would like to start doing more community drives next year, since this year is almost over.

"It's really exciting," said Rubio, adding, "I'm tired, really excitedly tired."

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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