Tabs for Wheelchairs keeps on rolling

Local fundraising initiative set to turn 25 next year

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Few people have kept tabs on the community in the last quarter of a century like Gwen Buccini.

Buccini is the co-ordinator of the annual Tabs for Wheelchairs fundraising campaign, which involves individuals and organizations collecting tabs from drink cans to help raise money for specialized wheelchairs for youngsters.

Next year marks the 25th anniversary for the local initiative, which started in 1998 when the St. Vital resident Buccini was a teacher at Holy Cross School. She’s continued to dedicate her time and energy to the cause since her retirement, and she’s grateful for the collective contribution of the community through the years that has helped make the campaign a consistently fruitful and successful one.

Supplied photo

Catie, pictured here, was this year’s Tabs for Wheelchairs recipient.

“I’m extremely pleased and grateful that the program has been so successful,” Buccini said. “The years have gone by so fast, and I have met so many wonderful and caring people. It has been a privilege to be a part of it.”

“Personally, the best part for me is when the individuals receive their specialized wheelchair; getting to see the joy and happiness in them and their families and knowing the difference it will make in their lives has been everything.”

The campaign started comparatively humbly in the fall of 1998, when six other schools started collecting tabs along with Holy Cross, Buccini said. At last count, there were 171 schools, 267 companies and organization, and hundreds more individuals who save tabs for the cause across the province, as well as in a few places in other provinces and the U.S.

As of this year, Tabs for Wheelchairs has donated 52 specialized wheelchairs. Buccini said the majority of recipients have historically been chosen by the Rehabilitation Centre for Children, while Manitoba Possible has also referred recipients in the last few years, as has the Manitoba Wheelchair Sport Association. There are also occasions when Tabs is able to donate two wheelchairs in the same year.

“The money we receive from the value of the tabs and our monetary donations varies from year to year. Also, some wheelchairs aren’t as expensive as others, and we have money left over for the next year. These are the times we can purchase two wheelchairs,” Buccini said.

As if to highlight this pattern on cue, this year’s specialized wheelchair recipient was Catie, while next year’s two recipients will be Bernard and Hayden.

According to a statement supplied by Buccini, Catie is a student at Earl Oxford School in Brandon, Man. At ten months old, she was diagnosed with hemiplegia, which is a type of cerebral palsy, and she was later re-diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia, a condition that affects all of her limbs to some degree. Described as an eternal optimist who is always seeking out the good in life, Catie is excited to be the recipient of her new power wheelchair, which will help improve her level of independence.

Buccini is thankful to everyone who has participated in the campaign through the years, and gives a special shout-out to a number of individuals and businesses who have been integral in their support at the business end of the campaign: Mike from HT Mobility Medical; Western Scrap Metals (Winnipeg); Wesman Salvage (Brandon); YRC Freight; Trailblazers Life Choices (Winnipeg & Steinbach); Access Storage; and Dave Harder from St. Boniface Bag.

And after three years of not being able to have an assembly at Holy Cross School to mark the occasion, Buccini hopes to be able to hold one in June 2023.

Anyone who’d like more information or would like to be part of the program can email tabsforwheelchairs@hotmail.com to find out more.

Simon Fuller

Simon Fuller
Community Journalist

Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at simon.fuller@canstarnews.com or call him at 204-697-7111.

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