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$100,000 goal Tribune article

Two years ago, Diana Blood started collecting aluminum cans in hopes to raise $500 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

At that time the country was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and in-person fundraising events for the foundation were on hold.

The organization grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses, and friends are to make the wishes become a reality.

On Friday afternoon, Blood and others involved with Cans for Wishes celebrated the huge success of the program, which started out collecting cans and expanded to collect all things metal — including large appliances such as refrigerators, stoves and hot water tanks.

In two years, Blood far surpassed the original goal of $500.

The celebration on Friday marked the most recent total of $100,011.93.

That means Cans for Wishes has raised enough money to fund wishes for 22 children and now is working on raising funds for the 23rd wish.

Most of the wishes are for trips to places such as Disney World, which includes everyone in the child’s immediate family. Estimates cost of each wish is more than $4,400. Other wishes are for special items such as adaptive playground equipment, remodeled bedrooms and some tangible things.

While the idea for recycling cans to raise funds started with Blood, she is quick to point out she did not do it alone.

She came up with the idea of recycling the cans because her grandfather, Ken Powell, had recycled cans for years.

Blood, who has been a Make-A-Wish volunteer for 15 years, met with the area director for the organization and discussed the idea. Then, on June 1, 2020, Cans for Wishes became a reality.

The community support has been tremendous, Blood said, with donations of cans and monetary gifts.

Blood had high praise for radio station Cool 101.7, social media and other media that have promoted the charity and helped in its success.

John Newhard II, who works with Blood’s father, heard about the program and decided to get involved.

He said he has “loved every second of it.”

Newhard said Diana has “big dreams” which requiring a lot of planning and he’s really glad to be part of the program.

Newhard is responsible for picking up the large metal objects, and his home is a collection site for people to drop off donations which are then taken to recycling.

Blood said she was inspired to volunteer for Make-A-Wish by Kris Haemer, who has been a volunteer for 25 years; and by Blood’s mother, Gerri Powell, whom she described as an “unofficial volunteer.”

Blood said she wants to help children and Make-A-Wish was the logical choice.

Haemer smiled as she told of rummaging through garbage receptacles at Venango Valley Golf Course to retrieve the discarded cans. She said she is known as the “garbage lady” as she collects the cans with the owner’s approval.

Other businesses through the county, including Conneaut Lake Park, have special containers for discarded cans to be given to Cans for Wishes.

Blood said in the spring of 2021, Kanect Recycling contacted Cans for Wishes to help with the project and from there “we flew,” she said, regarding the growth of Cans for Wishes.

While collecting the metal remains the biggest fundraiser, Cans for Wishes has received monetary donations through individuals and is the beneficiary of proceeds of a dice run in memory of Mia Thomas, a “Wish” child who died in March after battling a kidney tumor for two years.

Cans for Wishes also initiated a “Miss Cans for Wishes” program to get the youngsters involved in volunteering and promoting the program while learning the benefit of giving back to the community.

The current queens were crowned earlier this month. They are: Kylie Boring, Miss Cans for Wishes; Olivia Carpin, Junior Miss; and Brooklyn Thomas, Little Miss.

Thomas knows first-hand how important the wishes are to the families. She is the younger sister of Mia Thomas.

Brooklyn remembers the trip to Disney the family took as Mia’s wish.

Brooklyn’s favorite part, though, was not meeting all the Disney characters — it was “seeing Uncle Judd,” who lives in that area and got to meet up with them.

Blood praised the work done by the foundation in arranging to have wishes fulfilled.

While some in the community call volunteers in the project heroes, Newhard says the “real heroes are the kids” battling life-threatening conditions.

Courtney Nientimp, regional director of Make-A-Wish of West Virginia, praised the volunteers of Cans for Wishes at Friday’s celebration. She praised them for their work and the community for the support for the program.

While celebrating having raised more than $100,000 and funding 22 wishes, Cans for Wishes will hold one more big drop-off day before winter where people can take cans and other metals to Newhard’s home at 753 Euclid Ave., Saegertown.

Although pickups are suspended for the winter, exceptions will be made for lawn and garden tractors, large amounts of aluminum cans and junk cars.

Regular pickup will resume in the spring.

Cans for Wishes has an account set up at Lincoln Recycling where recycling participants can indicate their funds should be credited to the Cans for Wishes program.

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