HAWARDEN—The mother of a son who’s story has touched several lives in the West Sioux School District and throughout Iowa is asking for help to meet a goal of donating five ton of pop tabs to the Ronald McDonald House in Des Moines.
The deadline to collect that amount is by Jacy McAlexander’s birthday — Thursday, Sept. 5.
“This would have been Jacy’s 19th birthday,” said his mom, Kerri McAlexander. “We chose five tons because we wanted to challenge ourselves and Jacy’s friends to really go all out. Jacy loved a challenge, so this seemed appropriate.”
But why pop tabs?
Jacy McAlexander of Rockwell City became sick at 8 years old. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that causes tumors to grow on or around bones. He went five years after beating the first round of cancer until it struck again and he died May 16, 2018.
He and his family spent nearly 300 nights at the Ronald McDonald House.
“Jacy felt very strongly about doing all he could to give back to the groups that helped him, and RMH was his favorite of those groups,” Kerri said. “Jacy was given a cardboard RMH when he was about four or five. He was really dedicated to saving all the tabs that came into our home.”
During one of the stays at the house while battling cancer at just 8 years old, someone challenged him to collect one million tabs.
“He started while still undergoing treatment. Then when chemo was over, he really worked hard at his goal,” Kerri said. “It took a couple years, but he took 1,000 pounds the first time, which is just short of 1 1/2 million tabs.”
To continue to spread awareness of the Ronald McDonald House charity, Kerri and her family and friends will never stop collecting. She believes just having people save the tabs is spreading awareness and making the house more familiar, in turn hoping people will reach out to the house during their own time of need.
“I always tell my friends that as much as I love the Ronald McDonald House, it’s a place I hope they’ll never get to experience,” Kerri said. “But, everyone’s child is just one breath away from needing serious medical attention, and we are so thankful they are there for everyone.”
Kerrie thinks the RMH collects pop tabs because they are something that people can collect at no cost to themselves. She described that when someone pulls the tab and donates it, the person can still get the deposit from the can.
“It’s really easy to do, and people can save them at their home and it doesn’t take a lot of room,” Kerri said. “They are fairly clean, so when the are turned in at the house they don’t take up so much room.”
Instead of just dropping the tabs off at the Ronald McDonald House, the McAlexander’s take the tabs straight to the recycling center.
“We have so many that we don’t want the RMH staff or volunteers to have to move that many.” Kerri said. “We have the recycling company write the check directly to the house.”
Jacy’s mom has always been inspired by her son and the way he thought there was good in everyone. This was evident in the fact that mere hours before one of the worst moments of her life — the moment she lost her son, Jacy interviewed with a local television station, explaining why collecting pop tabs was important, encouraging people to continue to help one another and how thankful he was to all who helped him reach his goal at collecting his million.
“It always felt like they were routing for me,” Jacy said in a YouTube video shared by KCCI. “It just helps to know that people are on my side.”
The Ronald McDonald House in Des Moines named a suite after Jacy. In the video, Jacy smiles like he won the lottery when this surprise moment is talked about.
“I just thought it was pretty cool because that way I am part of the house forever,” Jacy said in the same KCCI video recorded just hours before his death.
Having his name plate on a suite at the Ronald McDonald House made Jacy smile. What can you do to help his mom smile? It’s simple, pull the tab from the pop can, save them and bring them to one of the designated locations.
For more information, to become a drop-off location, to volunteer to transport tabs or any other questions contact Katie Anderson at 712-898-1844.
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“This project meant so much to us,” Kerri said. “Zane and Jacy have gone to church together and have been friends since they were preschoolers. Now that we are in basketball season, Zane has Jacy’s initials in his basketball shoes!”
The funds raised was donated to Alex’s Lemonade Stand to be used for Ewing’s sarcoma research. The McAlexander’s were touched by the amount of money raised.
“We know that research projects take a great deal of funding,” Kerrie said. “Hopefully this amount is enough to help a researcher make big strides and hopefully make a difference to a young person. Jacy was the first ever patient in a clinical trial, it gave us a great deal of hope. We want to give that to someone else, and we pray that they have a better outcome.”