Prolific pop tab fundraiser for Ronald McDonald House passes the torch in Sequim

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM — Nine years after his father died of cancer, 18-year-old Sam Manders is moving on to build his adult life, but a fundraising project started in his father's memory and aimed at helping the families of seriously ill children will carry on.

Manders, a Sequim resident, graduated from Sequim High School on June 13 and will head to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma in September.

His successor, 12-year-old Gabe Omann, has already taken up the mantle of pop tab collector for the Sequim area.

Sam began collecting aluminum soda can tabs after his father, former Peninsula Daily News city editor and Sequim Gazette editor Jim Manders, died of cancer in June 2005 at the age of 58.

After the death of his father, the younger Manders needed some way to make a difference, said Kathrin Sumpter, Sam's mother.

“He wanted to help. When he learned about the pop tab program, it really spurred him on,” Sumpter said.

Positive move

Sam, then a third-grade student at Greywolf Elementary School in Sequim, decided he would do something positive and hit on an idea: collecting aluminum pop tabs to help fund the Ronald McDonald House.

Ronald McDonald House, which provides an affordable place for families of sick children to stay near the hospitals where they are being treated, has locations in both Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Since 2005, the younger Manders has collected aluminum can pop tabs — all of which go to the Ronald McDonald House in Portland.

Only Portland accepts tab donations, so the family visits once a year to drop off the year's collected donations, he said.

He said the Portland charity sells the aluminum to a recycling company to pay for the cost of lodging families of sick children.

At most locations, the cost of families' lodging are entirely paid for by donations, according to the Ronald McDonald House website,

24 pounds per night

The market value for the aluminum varies, but the organization estimated that for every 24 pounds of tabs collected, the value covers the cost of a family's stay at a Ronald McDonald House, Manders said he was told by organizers in Portland.

The current value of the aluminum is 64 cents per pound, according to Calbag Metals Co. of Portland.

Omann has big shoes to fill.

Manders' first attempt at collecting tabs in 2005 netted 17 pounds of aluminum, an estimated 28,832 tabs, and for several years, as word of his project grew, so did the weight of his donations.

By March of this year, he had collected a total of 1,483.4 pounds of aluminum over the course of his efforts, for an estimated 3,136,629 tabs — or 62 days of lodging for a family.

Dozens of local individuals and businesses keep and bag their pop tabs, then turn them in to Manders.

Many were contacted by Manders himself, and others heard about it by word of mouth or through attention in the news.

Some have been collecting tabs for years, Manders said.

However, with his move to Tacoma approaching, Manders decided it was time to pass the torch.

Despite a lack of siblings, he had a logical heir — his best friend's younger brother.

Omann, who will be a seventh-grade student at Sequim Middle School in September, has agreed to take up Manders' cause.

They have known each other for much of their lives, since Manders and Jeremiah Omann became best friends in the sixth grade — and Gabe was just starting school.

Last trip

Manders and Sumpter made their last trip to the Ronald McDonald House to deliver his final load of pop tabs in March, but Manders said he won't be abandoning the project entirely.

“Ronald McDonald House will always be my number one charity, whether it's pop tabs or money,” Manders said.

Manders said he also plans to collect pop tabs at his new school.

Since the final donation in March, Manders continued to receive tabs from regular contributors.

Manders gave them to Omann as a “starter kit” — six pounds of aluminum pop tabs — to “seed” the younger boy's efforts.

Omann and his mother, Molly Omann, accompanied Manders and Sumpter on a trip to Portland in March to deliver the tabs and visit the Ronald McDonald House.

“It was very cool, a good experience,” Gabe Omann said.

Omann said he plans to let the system Manders created to continue working as it is, and will ask the administrators at Sequim Middle School if he may put out a collection box for tabs at his new school.

“This helps out a lot of people,” he said.

Bagged pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House can be dropped off for Omann at Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center, 610 N. Fifth Ave., or call Molly Omann at 360-477-6100 to make other delivery arrangements.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at

Proving his metal

Sam Manders of Sequim has collected aluminum soda can pop tabs since 2005 to benefit Ronald McDonald House. The tallies from his efforts each year are:

2005: 17 pounds/28,832 tabs

2006: 53 pounds/89,888 tabs

2007: 104 pounds/176,384 tabs

2008: 156.5 pounds/265,477 tabs

2009: 213.1 pounds/361,418 tabs

2010: 258.5 pounds/438,416 tabs

2011: 209.8 pounds/355,990 tabs

2012: 291 pounds/493,536 tabs

2013: 257.5 pounds/436,720 tabs

2014: 283 pounds/479,968 tabs

Total as of March: 1,483.4 pounds/3,136,629 tabs

Last modified: June 30. 2014 7:05PM
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