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Collection helps families of sick kids
Cadet Master Sergeant Hanako Jones and Cadet Sergeant First Class Brian Reisbeck (right) presented the Manteca Lions Club with pull tabs during their meeting on Wednesday. The tabs will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Madera. - photo by Photo Contributed

GET INVOLVED: For more information on the “Pop Tab Collection Program” or to make donation, contact Lions Club President John Hinson at or visit

It’s a soda addiction of another sort.

For four years now, retired First Sgt. Karl Knutsen and the East Union JROTC have collected and saved the pop tabs off beverage and other aluminum cans. They’ve pestered their parents and their classmates alike, tossing each tab into a bag, bowl or box for safe-keeping.

Each spring for the last three, East Union’s cadet leaders have presented the Manteca Lions Club with their collection. The tabs are then forwarded to Ronald McDonald House Charities to become part of its “Pop Tab Collection Program.”

On Wednesday evening, that honor fell to Cadet Master Sergeant Hanako Jones and Cadet Sergeant First Class Brian Reisbeck, who visited the home of Lions Club President John Hinson during their quarterly meeting. 

There, Jones and Reisbeck presented the members with 14 pounds of pop tabs, or approximately 20,020 tabs.

“Sometimes children don’t see what they have in front of them. This is an opportunity for them to open their eyes. What is the Ronald McDonald House? What is it all about?” Knutsen said. “It’s for the families of children with diseases we can’t fix. I think the kids need to be more open minded to what’s around them and start appreciating what they have.”

Around the globe, the “Pop Tab Collection Program” helps offset the expenses of Ronald McDonald Houses and other programs, each designed to provide a measure of comfort and support for families with a severely ill or injured child.

The JROTC’s donation is part of a district-wide effort, Hinson. Multiple District 4 – the largest in California – has teamed with the Ronald McDonald House Charities Central Valley, an 18-room unit near Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera. 

Clovis Recycling has also offered to match the foundation’s collection, dollar for pound. 

“Our goal is to account for every family that has to stay there throughout the year,” Hinson said. 

It’s a pledge he and his colleagues don’t take lightly. In the past few years, the local chapter of the Lions Club has collected 120 pounds in pop tabs, or the equivalent of 12 nights at the Ronald McDonald House. 

They’ve had some help, of course, from cadets like Jones and Reisbeck.

“It’s what we’re here to do – to give support where it’s needed,” Hinson said. “… To see kids going above and beyond, it’s extremely heartwarming to see and be a part of.”

Ronald McDonald House Charities has chapters in 58 countries and regions around the world and has a presence in 78 percent of the world’s best children’s hospitals. The programs and houses are designed to keep families – approximately 7 million every year – together during difficult times. 

In Northern California, there are Ronald McDonald Houses in Madera, Sacramento, Palo Alto (Stanford) and San Francisco. Sacramento also is home to Camp Ronald McDonald at Eagle Lake. There are mobile care units in San Jose and Concord. 

Knutsen was introduced to this charity by the Ripon chapter of the Lions Club about eight years ago. He hopes next year’s donation can coincide with a field trip to the RMH in Madera.

“This has been so much fun. Not every child makes an effort, but a lot of them will save during the year and then walk in with four Ziploc bags full of them,” Knutsen said. 

“If you can get out of your comfort zone and take that little tab and drop it into a little cup, you’d be surprised how many you accumulate by the end of a school year.”