A Portage girl collected 10,175,263 pop tabs in one year, according to a calculation based on weight.
That’s about 3½ tons of pop tabs for 5-year-old Mercedes Alves.
Her family dropped off the tabs at Resource Solutions Corp. in Madison, the official recycling center for the Ronald McDonald House in Madison. The family secured copies of the paperwork and took photos of the weigh-in process in case Guinness World Records eventually decides to approve the family’s formal request for a new record: most pop tabs collected in one year by weight.
Guinness only considers hand-counted results for pop tabs, which ultimately led Portage police and the family to cancel a counting event planned at Portage High School after they couldn’t find more than 1,000 volunteers they determined was needed to pull it off.
“It’s the million-dollar question we’re all waiting on,” Joe Alves, Mercedes’ father, said of the family’s application for a new record.
The 5-year-old’s collection was done in honor of her late brother, Gunner Sweeney, who died in 2014 of injuries suffered in a car crash. The previous Guinness World Record for tabs collected in a year was 2.7 million.
“Honestly, this is the most tabs I’ve ever seen anybody raise,” said Shauna Thayer, director of marketing and communications for the Ronald McDonald House in Madison, which provides living space and other comforts for families of hospitalized children.
“Who in the world knows what kind of impact this will have for us in the long run?” Ronald McDonald House Executive Director Kevin Huddleston said. “How many additional donations will come into the Ronald McDonald House because of what she’s done? I think the impact goes far beyond any dollar amount that we might get for the aluminum.”
Thayer said the response to Mercedes’ effort was significant.
“We had people calling us from all over,” she said. “We’d get people stopping in saying, ‘Oh, I’m here for the little girl in the news and wanted to drop these off.’ It’s amazing how far-reaching it was.”
Huddleston estimated Mercedes’ tabs would result in about $3,000 for the organization, but said the effort goes beyond the direct donation.
“The word got out, and that means more and more people are seeing what we do for families,” he said. “We’re lucky to bring in $10,000 from the tabs, annually, so for this one little girl to bring in a third or more of what we bring in a year is huge.”
Families who stay at Ronald McDonald House don’t get charged for their stays, though some of them provide donations to the organization. Huddleston said it costs the organization about $150 per night to host a family — factoring things like electricity and food and other costs — and that means at the very least, Mercedes raised enough tabs to pay for “several nights for several families.”
Ronald McDonald House in Madison hosts about 1,200 families a year, with some who stay for one night and others who stay for months.
“It’s really hard to put into words exactly how you feel about something like this, especially with how much the family has gone through,” Huddleston said. “It goes to show you where there’s a will, there’s a way. Her love for her brother and this house made it happen.
“We were lucky to be part of her story.”
Joe Alves said Mercedes will start a new mission on May 1: collecting pop tabs in honor of fallen soldiers. “She’s ready to go again,” he said.
Those interested in following her new collection efforts should visit her Facebook page, Mercedes’ Quest.