You wouldn’t think it by looking at one, but those seemingly useless aluminum pull tabs that come from pop cans have become quite special in West Kelowna.
Particularly for a local five-year-old named Thompson Chadsey. who with the help from his family has started a collection.
It’s not for a hobby or art, but to show appreciation, to repay Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland where he was treated for the ailments he was born with on Valentine’s Day 2014.
At birth, Thompson was missing bones in his face, leg and foot. His mother Alicia Chadsey was told by doctors that amputation and a prosthetic was the best option for Thompson.
“He wasn’t even six weeks old, and we weren’t ready to accept that yet,” said Chadsey.
“We were suggested Shriners, and within 24 hours, they had arranged an appointment (with a specialist) for within a month.”
When the Chadseys met with the specialist, they made the decision to not amputate Thompson’s one shorter leg, and to focus on other means of treatment, such as smaller surgeries to lengthen and strengthen the leg.
“They said that by the time everything was said and done, there would be no issues for Thompson,” said Chadsey.
“In my mind, they saved his life, and after I asked well, ‘What can we do?’”
The Chadseys were then told about Shriners’ aluminum tabs program. The tabs from pop cans, tuna cans, cat food and more is the only 100 per cent aluminum part of the can, and can be sold to aluminum recyclers.
Shriners donates the raised money to support programs and treatments like the ones that helped Thompson, and there is no hindrance to the can’s original recycling.
The Chadseys knew almost immediately that this was something they could not only commit to, but their efforts would benefit the hospital that helped save Thompson’s future.
Since the visit to Shriners five years ago, the Chadseys have stuck to their commitment to help the hospital’s aluminum tabs collection.
Alicia Chadsey estimates a 2,000 pound collection of tabs in the five years, good for roughly $2,000.
At almost 1,000 tabs per single pound, one only has to do the math to see how committed this West Kelowna family is to supporting a cause that has become a passion for the five-year-old Thompson.
“He knows what they are, and he wants to take them from stores, and wherever we go,” said Chadsey. “He sees them on the ground and he’ll take them. He loves his tabs.”
Thompson has also come along in his treatments. His shorter leg is helped by a larger shoe with a lift, to help make the difference almost unnoticeable.
Chadsey said that Nordstrom and Kelowna’s Orthoquest have made significant help in the purchasing and fixing-up of Thompson’s two different-sized shoes.
Feb. 14 was Thompson’s fifth birthday, and February has also unofficially become the month of the aluminum tabs in West Kelowna.
Through word of mouth and social media, the Chadseys have set up drop-off locations for would-be tab donors at the local Johnson Bentley Pool.
“Every tab counts. The amount (of tabs) that come to the pool is phenomenal. It has turned into something that everyone can do to help,” said Chadsey. “We’re going to continue to do it, it’s our way of saying thank you.”
Local restaurants have included themselves in the tab-pulling collection while donations also come in from Rutland Senior Secondary and Rutland Middle schools.
Support has also come from as far as Calgary and Prince George with people looking to donate. Chadsey then directs them to the best way to donate the tabs, usually via the Thompson’s Tabs FaceBook page.
Though the donations have come in all different sizes throughout the years, it hasn’t downsized the Chadsey family’s resolve.
“It’s a grand scheme thing. I asked how I could help, (Shriners) said tabs,” said Chadsey.
“So that’s what we do.”
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