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Saving pop tops is a big job for a boy, but rewarding

March 21, 2010
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

Let the children lead us.

One child, for sure, will lead us, and we can help. We can give him our can pop tops.

Eight-year-old Ryan Speer, of Pocahontas, has been collecting pop tops for a year and on March 13 took them to the Ronald McDonald House in Des Moines. People there recycle the tabs to get money for the house, and with the help of people like Ryan raise between $4,000 and $5,000 a year.

Son of Tonya and Mike Speer, of Pocahontas, the second-grader gathered 80 gallons of pop tops. That's 304,090 tabs - 240 pounds.

"Right now the going rate of aluminum is really low," Tonya Speer said.

But that doesn't deter Ryan in his efforts. He's already set a goal of 100 gallons of tabs for next year.

He started saving tabs two years ago when his kindergarten class with Shelley Stumpf as a teacher saved them as a class project.

"My teacher told me what it was all about and that encouraged me to start collecting them," Ryan said. "I told my friends about it and they spread it all over and they bring them to me. That's what they pretty much do."

With friends like that, you can get a lot done.

Speer said her son chose to donate to the Des Moines Ronald McDonald House because she and her husband stayed at the house for about a week when Ryan was born and had to stay in the hospital.

In Ryan's first year of collecting tabs on his own, he rounded up 18 gallons of the little things and set a goal of 25 gallons for this year, far exceeding that goal when he delivered 80 gallons.

Now his goal is 100 gallons of pop tops. That's a lot of soda and beer.

"He's very competitive, most of all," Speer said of her son. "It's almost like an obsession, but he really fully understands why he's doing it. He gets the big picture, and he's only 8 1/2. It's awesome to see him doing this."

So anxious to get the pop tops, Ryan has been known to go through bags of cans already tied up for recycling just to pop the tops.

All I can say is if you're ever around Ryan Speer and you're drinking a can of soda or beer, you'd better pop the top for him or wait as he hovers, waiting. That can be terribly disconcerting, that waiting.

But I cannot think of anything a young boy can do that would be more worthwhile than saving pop tops. Ryan is a boy with a big heart. I'm impressed by his desire and drive and very proud of him.

By the way, Saturday, at approximately midnight, was the official first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. That's the vernal equinox. On that day, the Southern Hemisphere observed the autumnal equinox, the start of autumn. Now, I love fall, but no matter how much I love it, I'm surely glad they're getting autumn and we're finally getting spring.

There's still a mountain of snow to melt in the neighbor's yard behind our house, which should make the lake in our back yard even deeper.

I wonder if I must wait until summer to go swimming.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2131 or



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