Emmett Francis is eight years old. He was born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and a clubbed foot. As a growing youngster, he needs a new wheelchair and walker. Francis can walk short distances with the help of a walker but he needs a rugged wheelchair too, and the students are collecting tabs to help him get it.
“A wheelchair is his main mode of transportation,” said Charmaine Smith, Francis's mother. “It takes a lot of wear and tear so the next wheelchair he will be getting in about a year or so and hopefully it will be a sturdier make, this one keeps falling apart.”
The tabs that Smith and her family collect get weighed in at the bottle exchange depot where they give her a rate for them. She then takes the money and puts it in a fund for Francis’s walker/wheelchair. Her campaign is called “Wheels for Emmett.” The fund does not have an end goal as Francis will need upgrades on his walker and wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Amanda Fisher, a teacher at LRHS, is a good friend of Smith’s. She is teaching an inquiry-based learning program at the high school where students have to find a need and then provide a service to fill that need.
“When I posted about the pop tabs (Fisher) immediately decided she wanted to help,” said Smith.
“We had kids who worked with Little Rocks Curling; we had some who worked on a cat shelter project,” said Fisher.
Students have also sold items such as suckers or popcorn to make money for causes they care about.
“It’s finding a need and then trying to find a way they can take their skills and talents and help out,” said Fisher.
Fisher was already collecting tabs for Francis, so she showed her students her own project in case they wished to work on hers. Many did.
“I said anyone struggling with an idea or can’t come up with one can join me so away they come,” said Fisher.
The students became passionate about helping the little boy from New Glasgow they’d never met. They are even writing him letters. Francis reads at a Grade 6 level and loves talking to new people.
“I told them to let them know a little bit about you, tell him why you picked this project,” Fisher told her students when they worried about what to talk to Francis about.
Smith and Fisher agree that they’d love the opportunity for the students to meet Francis some time.
Fisher says the project has definitely had a positive effect on her students.
“I have some kids who are really taking to this project. I see them in town and they’re like ‘Ms. Fisher we got more tabs!’” she said.
The students have collected approximately 100,000 tabs or more based on the weigh-ins they did on April 10. Many of those tabs came from a large community donation from one individual.
“As the tabs come in, there’s more excitement,” said Fisher.
The students were supposed to wrap their project up in April, but have chosen to continue until the end of the school year because they feel so strongly about the cause.
Smith says the project means a lot to her and that people don’t always realize how hard it is when people like Francis want to be mobile but can’t be. Her family is working on fundraising efforts to get Francis a hands-free walker, too, which will allow him to do basic things like wash his own hands, which he’s never been able to do before.
“He wants to be more independent,” said Smith. “There’s so many things we take for granted every day.”