The lowly can-tab a treasure for Gladstone youngster

GLADSTONE – Although it takes approximately 1,725 aluminum can-tabs to equal a pound, 8-year-old Paul Seger may easily be described as the Can-tab Prince of Milwaukee Children’s Hospital. In the past three years, the Gladstone youngster has collected hundreds of pounds of the lowly can-tabs for the Ronald McDonald House connected with the children’s hospital.

Since he was 3-years-old, Paul has been making trips to the Milwaukee hospital two or three times a year for treatment and checkups since he was diagnosed with Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. This is a disease that leaves the sufferer vulnerable to liver problems and emphysema. In Paul’s case, doctors initially thought that, because his liver enzyme level was so low he would need an eventual liver and lung transplant. But his levels slowly began to go down with the help of various medications. Now, he may not need a transplant until later on in his life.

With a beaming smile, Paul describes his joy at leaving for a trip to the hospital when the back end of his family’s car is filled with bins, boxes and bags of aluminum can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House.

Paul’s parents, Tim and Kathy Seger, routinely stay at the Ronald McDonald House when Paul has an appointment at the hospital. If Paul is undergoing out-patient treatment, he stays there as well. The stay is usually two or three days, but occasionally it can be as long as a week.

“But we know of families who have to stay for months and months and being able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House allows them to see their child every day,” Kathy said.

It didn’t take Paul very long to learn the importance of the can-tab program to the Ronald McDonald House and he has been on a campaign to collect them ever since.

“They use the money from them to buy toys and stuff for the Ronald McDonald House,” Paul explained. “It makes the children feel great when they go to the hospital and they have something new to play with. There’s a treasure chest there and every child gets a toy to take home when they visit.”

After Paul became interested in collecting the tabs, Kathy said a call went out to everyone in their family, their church and his school to save the tabs. Even customers at a convenience store where Kathy was employed brought in their recyclable cans took off the tabs and gave them to her. She said the family’s latest trip included plastic bins filled with an estimated 300 pounds of tabs.

“All my cousins are saving them,” said Paul. “I asked one person in my class and I think he’s going to bring me some.”

According to Kathy, one of her son’s greatest joy was when he is able to add more can-tabs to a bin that was available at the garage at the Ronald McDonald House.

“One time the bin went away but last year they put the bin back in,” Paul said. “I like it when I can fill it right up to the top.”

In addition to providing toys and games to the children at Ronald McDonald House, Kathy said funds are also used to take the children and their siblings on field trips, like the Milwaukee Zoo, local water parks, and museums.

“It’s nice for the kids who to stay there,” said Kathy. “They can play games in the computer room and game room. They have a large garden with playground equipment and even a teepee.”