The Ronald McDonald house has helped many families find comfort over the years, and one Champlin, Minn., family who is grateful for that help is now giving back by collecting as many pop tabs as they can.
The Ronald McDonald House helps families spend the night near a child in treatment or get a hot meal during a difficult time, and they helped the Browns find peace when their son, Noah, was born with a cyst in his brain.
Now, the Browns want to help the organization this holiday season, and they're now gathering enough tiny tabs to rank near the top of a one-time donation for a single family.
Although Noah Brown is a happy and healthy boy now, his life was in danger 6 months ago. While he was in the hospital, Don and Megan Brown stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and ate for free.
"It was so peaceful to know we were down the hall from our son, especially in such a scary time with him being so little," Megan Brown said.
The Browns wanted to celebrate holiday cheer with the organization that helped keep them near their bundle of joy, but they couldn't do so financially. That's when they decided to collect enough pop tabs to fill Don Brown's truck.
"Pop tabs, to us, are cash," Carynn Roehick said. "It's exactly like seeing cash."
For years, the Ronald McDonald house has accepted the metal tabs, which it recycles for 55 to 60 cents a pound. It may not seem like much, but the Upper Midwest chapter gets about $30,000 annually from pop tab donations.
The Browns began collecting from friends and family, but that wasn't enough.
"There was a time in which I was like, 'I don't know if we are going to do this," she said. "Then, it took off. Ian Leonard actually tweeted it for us too."
Through Twitter and the hashtag #PopTabsForNoah, the campaign exploded. Then, it went to Facebook and bags of pop tabs started arriving from Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.
"Talk about reach out and touch somebody," Don Brown said. "This has been taken to a whole new level."
In the past 6 months, boxes have been coming in daily.
"We have received so many small bags like this. People say, 'I only have a small bag to contribute,'" Megan Brown explained. "Well, we got a lot of little bags that added up to a lot."
How much? On Wednesday, the pile of pop tabs totaled more than 600 pounds and the total number is closing in on 800,000.
"It's been incredible," Megan Brown said. "It's been a perfect distraction on the longest of days."
In all, the collection will be worth more than $400.
"To generate that many pop tabs in that small of an amount of time is an incredible feat," Roehick said.
That sum will go to buying more toys for children, food for families, and necessities for those who stay at Ronald McDonald House.
"That $400 would buy many more meals than we shared at the Ronald McDonald House, and if many more families can have that same peace -- or that same semblance of peace -- then, it's all been worth it," Don Brown said.
Anyone who wants to donate pop tabs can still do so. They are being collected at the Lemon Water Salon and the Cub Foods in Minnetonka. Anyone who can't make it there can also try to meet up with the Browns on Monday. They plan to deliver the tabs to the Ronald McDonald House at 11 a.m.