He approached me with a huge bag of pop tabs and a big grin on his face. I'd just finished doing a workshop for people with disabilities and was getting ready to have a meeting with the self advocate committee of Summer Street Industries. He let me take hold of the bag of tabs and I was astonished at how much they weighed.
Meet Archie Kontuk like I did. A man with a mission who has for 25 years being raising money to buy wheelchairs for those who need help in getting one. Others gathered round to help tell Archie's story and he himself handed me a brochure that he'd had made up to explain what he was doing. It turns out that Archie had been in a wheelchair for twelve years and through grit, determination and physio he strengthened his legs such that he could walk. But he never forgot how the wheelchair gave him the ability to move.
Years later he heard of a family with a little girl who had Spina Bifida and were in need of a wheelchair for her. Someone told him that you could raise money to buy wheelchairs by collecting pop can tabs. Archie was on his way. That little girl recieved the first of 11 chairs that Archie would help buy. Even now he collects tab and his fame has travelled far. He gets donations of pop tabs through the mail, some coming in sandwich bags, some in trash bags.
He's done the math, it takes 3032 pop tabs to make a pound and he gets 50 cents a pound. It then takes 3,032,000 pop tabs to get a wheelchair. Remember he's bought 11 (eleven) chairs.
As it turns out, Archie is having trouble with his legs again and it's possible that in the future he may have to use the pop can tabs to help him get his own chair. He says, "I'd get a good one."
If you want to save your pop tabs and send them to Archie, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 902-755-1745. You can join people from around North America who send Archie pop tabs.
One of the best things about travelling is that I get to meet cool people. Archie is cool. He has a passion for living and a passion that carries him through life on the wings of meaning. Talking about giving back. I'll always remember the weight of those pop tabs in that bag. But I'll really remember the grin on the face of Archie when I handed them back to him. He held them as if they were precious. As if he could see into the future and see the wheelchair he was buying for another person.
If that's 'disabled' we could all use a touch of it.