Woman Who Saved Pop Tabs For 26 Years Gets Last Laugh

They Didn't Understand

She was the target of their mockery. Her age and likely insanity were cited as reasons why.

In the moments after a large bus pulled up in front of a magnificent building, everyone's faces changed. Many of them blushed in embarrassment. It finally dawned on them what was happening.

Hard Beginnings

91-year-old Ruth Hana didn’t have the kind of childhood that most people would imagine.

It was hard, lonely, and often heartbreaking. But those very years had shaped her into the woman she was now – someone that was currently sifting through millions of pieces of metal with a single goal in mind.

Locally Known

It wasn’t the first time she had done something like this.

Not that many years ago, she could be found rummaging through garbage and crawling into dumpsters. People would either be disgusted or recognize her and not give her actions a second thought. But Ruth didn’t care. Lately, however, there has been a new problem.

“Too Old”

It wasn’t the fact that more eyes were on her but rather that unwelcomed words accompanied the looks.

She could feel her blood pressure rise any time they said, “You’re too old to be doing anything like this.” What did they expect? For her to just sit in her room and stare out the window until it was time to crawl into her coffin?

Keep Going

It had already been a hard adjustment moving into a retirement home.

But thankfully, it was a nice place with friendly residents and staff that didn’t treat them like children or invalids. And, in Ruth’s case, they let her get away with a lot – which was vital for her current pop tab goal. She was getting so close.

Piled High

Boxes, jugs, and bags lay in every nook and cranny.

She would spend her time hunting down cans, prying the tabs off, and then counting the day’s haul and adding the totals to her notebook. Everyone was desperate to find out what they were for. And it would only take a few more months.

Finally Here!

As the big day finally came, the staff and residents gathered at her door and watched her drop the final tab into an old plastic milk jug.

They all clapped. Even the ones that had judged her for doing something so strange politely joined in and didn’t even roll their eyes. The head nurse begged to know what the plan was.

Time To Go

Ruth grinned as she pulled out her best Sunday coat and the new pair of shoes she had bought a couple of days prior.

On her orders, the staff put every container into the retirement home bus – many of them were even thankful that the clutter was finally gone. Two staff members joined her, and she handed the address to the driver.

Final Destination

The bus finally pulled up in front of an enormous brick building.

People funneled out of the front door – Ruth knew she was expected. She had made an appointment, after all. But it was so funny to see the staff’s confused faces. A man in an expensive grey suit came out with a bright smile.

Staff Expected Her

“Mrs. Hana, so great to finally meet you,” he said. He looked at the pop tabs, and a tear formed in the corner of his eye.

So, what was the big mystery behind the collection? It was pretty simple. They were a donation to the Ronald MacDonald House charity. But what did they do?

Helping Children

It wasn’t the first time Ruth had rolled up her sleeves to do something for charity.

But this one was to support families who needed to stay in the city because their children were very sick and needed to go to the specialized children’s hospital. Everything, every tab, connected back to her childhood.

Helping Others

You see, Ruth grew up in an orphanage.

Every holiday she felt heartbroken because she had no one to spend it with. Every time she got sick, she was terrified because she felt like no one cared. She had spent most of her adult years giving to children in some way.

Everyone Finally Understood

It wasn’t until they returned to the retirement home that the sheer magnitude of her generosity became clear.

Throughout her life, she had made so many monumental donations that the city had already declared “Ruth Hana” days 12 times! The staff marveled at the pile of certificates and thank you letters she kept hidden in a box under her bed.

Just Who She Is

Ruth didn’t like to brag. It wasn’t part of who she was.

She just loved to give back to the world. People don’t realize the true value of generosity because they don’t see how it ripples through the world. They don’t see the real fortune it bestows on both sides.

Seen In A Different Light

After the truth came out, Ruth got the “last laugh,” so to speak – although she would never really laugh at them in real life.

But people in the home looked at her differently now. They realized her action held great significance. She didn’t look for praise. What touched her more than anything was seeing how people in the home started to collect tabs now too! But how do pop tabs help children?

How It Works

The Ronald McDonald Charity House collects the aluminum pop tabs - which don’t mean much in themselves. However, when they are all added up, they become a significant donation to charity.

Ring tabs from any can of pet food, soup, or soda are given to a local recycler, who then turns the valuable aluminum into money for the charity. But why just the tabs?

Why Just The Tabs?

The ring tags from cans are much easier to store and recycle than whole cans and are much more sanitary.

Once a large number of tabs have been collected, they are loaded up and weighed to determine their monetary value. The recycling center then writes a cheque for the charity so they can cover their operational costs.

A Life Of Purpose

“They operate totally on volunteers and donations, and when you look at what Ronald McDonald House does, it makes you look beyond yourself to help somebody else,” A fellow resident said.

“It is giving her something to do. She feels like she is contributing, and it is important for an older person to have a purpose in life — a reason. It is important as you get older to look beyond yourself.”

Taking Off

Because of Ruth, the entire nursing home is also collecting pop tabs for charity.

“I’m sort of amazed at how these tabs have taken off,” a staff member said. “It has gone out into the community, and I’m just tickled that Ruth has gotten into this. It has given her something to do and made her feel useful.”

Paying It Forward

Ruth has collected over a million pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House, and she’s still going strong. Whenever she sees a dumpster, she climbs inside and sifts through the trash to save what she can.

Her story has since gone viral on Reddit and Facebook as she spreads awareness about children in need and what we can do to help.

Another Pop Tab Collector

Aletha Buck, a 96-year-old Shelby resident, has spent the last 20 years collecting pop tabs for The Ronald McDonald house. She does it to help the facility cover its operational costs for the people they help in the hospital.

She began her mission back in 1995. "When you see the kids here, it does something to you," she said. So, how many cans has Aletha collected?

10 Million Tabs

Over the 20 years she’s been collecting them, she’s managed to amass a staggering total of 10 million pop tabs!

“People were staying at The Ronald McDonald House, and we always heard them talk about so many people who just needed some help,” she told reporters. How did she manage to do it?

Support From The Community

During the 20 years she’s been collecting, people have gotten wind of what she’s doing for The Ronald McDonald House.

Members of the community and even further abroad began sending her all the pop tabs they had collected in the mail. Aletha says she receives pop tabs in the mail almost daily. That’s why she keeps on counting.

Becoming Serious

“I just got more excited when I got more tabs and started counting them,” Aletha said. “And I thought, ‘well, you know, that might be alright to count them just to see how many we can get.’” Little did she know, she’d continue to collect them for the next 20 years!

Soon after she realized how much she was helping the non-profit organization, she set her goal of 10 million tabs and hit it in 2021.

Larry “The Can Man”

Larry is a 71-year-old who has also dedicated his life to collecting pop can tabs for the Ronald McDonald foundation. Like Ruth and Aletha, he is also trying his best to help children in need.

But Larry has a bit of a different approach, and thus the community has come to know him as “The Can Man.”

His Collections

When Larry started, he tried his best to collect as many can tabs as possible, but there was only so much he could do on his own.

If he wanted to expand his operation, digging through trash bins alone wouldn’t do it. He needed some serious help, and he knew exactly who to turn to.

Community Support

Larry turned to his community. With the help of schools, pubs, and local supermarkets, he was able to collect more pop can tabs than he ever thought he would.

His dream brought the community together, and they were all helping him to collect enough tabs for each donation he planned to make.

Donations Over The Years

Larry never shied away from collecting his tabs and had multiple donations over the years. He still goes through the bins and makes rounds collecting tabs from all the establishments that have agreed to help him in his quest.

But it wasn’t always that easy to collect his can tabs.

Taking Time

When Larry started, it took him a lot of time to reach his initial goal. He was collecting for over two years to get his first two million, but that didn’t stop him from pushing forward.

With each goal he surpassed, he reached higher, and eventually, he would end up donating much more than he ever envisioned.

Big Donation

In 2017, Larry donated a whopping 15 million pop can tabs to the Ronald McDonald house. Of course, the donation meant a lot to the charity, and they were eager to show how grateful they were.

When Larry arrived at the foundation, there was a lot going on. An announcement was made, and Larry was handed his Million Tab Challenge certificate.

Million Tab Challenge

What is the Million Tab Challenge? It is a show of appreciation from the Ronald McDonald house. Each person who collects more than a million tabs would be handed a certificate and have a little speech given to them.

For people like Larry, it’s something spectacular to show that their efforts are truly appreciated by the charity.

Members On The List

Larry, Ruth, and Aletha have all received their Million Tab Challenge certificates, but they weren’t the only ones who made it onto the list.

Besides all the private people who spent their lives collecting and the communities coming together to help each other, the challenge has gotten a whole lot bigger.

Bigger Impact

Today, there is a whole list of companies that have contributed to the Million Dollar Challenge. The names of these companies can be seen on the Ronald McDonald house website.

They were all participating in what’s called the Can Tab Challenge, and each year the new winner would be announced.

How Do The Tab Donations Help?

According to the Ronald McDonald House website, each pound of tabs is equivalent to approximately $0.40 - $0.50. It doesn’t seem like much if you look at it that way, especially if you consider that it takes around 1,128 tabs to fill that ounce.

But if you consider that 2 million tabs make a ton, then the donations made by people like Larry contribute a whole lot.

Ronald McDonald Charity Houses

It costs the Ronald Macdonald House approximately $100 -$140 to house a family for one night, so even that pound of pop can tabs can make a massive difference for those who need it most.

The tab challenge brought in about $6,000 per year, meaning that it could support one 13-bedroom house filled with families who needed it for 4-5 days from the pop can tabs alone.

A Little Goes A Long Way

However the charity doesn’t expect everyone to donate as much as Larry did. Even the smallest of donations could go a long way in helping them provide for the families who were in need.

If everyone contributed what they could, it would still make a big difference in helping them with those additional expenses.

How Can You Participate?

After reading about the difference, all these people made, you might be wondering how you could get in on the action. Well, it’s pretty simple.

All you have to do is collect the tabs before trashing your cans. When you feel you have enough, you could go to your nearest McDonald's or charity house and drop them off.

Community Efforts

Who knows, there might even be a community effort going on in your town! Or you could bring the community together in order to help the foundation!

At the end of the day, a community could end up collecting much more than a single person. Larry has proven that. But whatever your choice may be, it would help.

Low Goals

If you plan on doing it on your own and setting your own goal of putting your tabs aside, go for it. There is no need to donate millions at a time unless you want to be part of the Million Tabs Challenge.

Even donating the tabs, you’ve gathered from your cans over the span of a year can make a difference.

High Goals

But nothing stops you from setting high goals, either. Everyone we spoke about found a way to contribute large amounts, and we’re sure you can do it too.

Whether you plan on collecting over the years or getting help from your community to reach your goals, your efforts will be appreciated.

In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author's imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.