Senior projects have become a standard of many high school’s curriculum, and for most students, the projects present an opportunity for self-improvement. Students select projects that help them refine a skill or explore a potential career path. However, Cottonwood High School student Krystin Uhlenkott saw something else: an opportunity to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities, an organization near to her family’s heart.
Krystin first heard about the Ronald McDonald House when she was still in elementary school. Her aunt and uncle had twins that were born prematurely, and had to be transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Deaconess. During that time they stayed at Spokane’s Ronald McDonald House, and Krystin and her family came to visit. Even as a young child, Krystin was impacted by the home-like atmosphere the House created for families in need. From that point forward, she started collecting pop tabs to donate.
By the time she entered high school, Krystin had developed quite a collection, and decided to set an ambitious goal as her senior project: she wanted to collect a million tabs to donate. As she says “I decided it was a great charity, and I knew I wanted to do something beneficial for someone for my senior project, and once I heard how awesome the Ronald McDonald House was I just knew it was a good fit.” Reaching this goal involved developing a method for counting and storing tabs, and most importantly, putting together a campaign to raise awareness in Cottonwood, Idaho. “It is a very small down of only about 900 people,” explained Krystin. She knew she would need the support of everyone.
Soon, word got out, and the whole community got behind the effort. Krystin received packages from all over the United States from friends and family members of people in Cottonwood who heard about her project. “My community was so helpful, it seemed like literally everyone was saving tabs for me. Every time I would talk to someone, they would always tell me that they were saving tabs, and for me that was truly one of the coolest things because it made me realize how amazing my community was.” By mid-way through her senior year, she has officially exceeded her goal of 1 million tabs, and had the chance to drop them off right before Christmas. “After going on a tour of the House, I learned that the Ronald McDonald House doesn’t just give people a place to stay, they also make it such a homey feel for people…It is so cool to me that they give kids Santa gifts and so many amazing things like that. I was truly amazed at how awesome the Ronald McDonald House really is.”
The tabs donated by Krystin and the community of Cottonwood will be turned in to recycling, and the House expects that it will raise enough money to cover a one month stay for a family with a child in medical crisis.
These types of efforts are truly invaluable to the families who depend on Spokane’s Ronald McDonald House, not only because of the money raised, but because they are such a strong showing of care and support. We wish Krystin all the best next year when she attends Blue Mountain Community college, where she will be playing volleyball.