A whole lotta pull tabs

Oak Bluff teen continues to collect for Tabs for Wheelchairs

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BY KELSEY JAMES

STAFF REPORTER

OAK BLUFF

Photo by Kelsey James

Thirteen-year-old Mitchell Steele, pictured here with his grandfather, Ed Jones, started saving his family’s drink tabs after seeing a sign advertising Trailblazers Life Choice’s Tabs for Wheelchairs drive, which annually raises funds to present a new wheelchair to a Manitoban in need.

SANFORD

FORT GARRY

An Oak Bluff teenager has collected more than 50,000 soda can tabs for the popular Tabs for Wheelchairs initiative.

Mitchell Steele, 13, started saving his family’s drink tabs after seeing a sign advertising Trailblazers Life Choice’s Tabs for Wheelchairs drive, which annually raises funds to present a new wheelchair to a Manitoban in need. Staff at Trailblazers Life Choices, located at 1031 Autumnwood Dr. in Windsor Park, assist with receiving soda can tabs from individuals and schools, which are sorted into bags and later sold for scrap money (all funds raised go towards wheelchairs).

“My mom drinks a lot of Bubly,” Steele said with a chuckle, adding he started saving his family’s tabs just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2019. “It took a lot of time, and it was hard starting, but it was cool when I had that much.”

While 50,000 tabs may seem like a lot, it takes millions to raise enough money for a wheelchair, according to the Trailblazers Life Choices website.

Steele is up to the challenge, and has already started saving his family’s tabs, although he only had a couple at press time.

“I think I can do it,” he said.

Steele’s grandfather, Ed Jones, contacted the Royal Canadian Legion Fort Garry Branch No. 90 on Pembina Highway to share his grandson’s success. Jones, an Air Force and coast guard veteran, recently moved from southern Ontario to Sanford, Man., so he could be closer to his family.

“I was proud of the way he stuck to it,” Jones said. “He started off after seeing this one collection point in Sanford and wanted to do it. It was all on him.”

Fort Garry Legion received the donation from Steele, forwarded it to Trailblazers Life Choices — the main collection point for the city — and recognized him with a framed certificate and McDonald’s gift card.

“It was his first time being involved in a charity drive,” Jones said. “He’s very active in a lot of things at school and with sports, but he still wanted to get involved. COVID got in the way, but he kept at it for three years.”

Aside from his philanthropic efforts, Steele — who attends St. Charles Catholic School — is also a talented hockey player active in a lot of school-based activities.

Tabs for Wheelchairs started in 1998 and is now in more than 100 schools, about 200 businesses and has hundreds of individuals and community groups participating in the cause.

It continues to be a cause close to the heart of Gwen Buccini, who was a teacher at Holy Cross School in St. Boniface when the initiative started. Since her retirement, Buccini has continued to dedicate her time to the annual campaign.

For more information about the initiative, visit www.tlcwpg.ca. For those interested in donating, Trailblazers Life Choices accepts tabs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, except on holidays. Individuals can also schedule a drop-off by calling the organization at 204-257-0813.

Kelsey James

Kelsey James
Community Journalist

Kelsey James is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She graduated from Red River College’s creative communications program in 2018 as a journalism major and holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric, writing and communications from the University of Winnipeg. A lifelong Winnipegger who grew up in southwest Winnipeg, Kelsey is thrilled to be covering the neighbourhoods she still calls “home.”

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