Bethsaida Ramos worked quietly as she drew balloons on a card set to go to a child with cancer in Mexico.
The card-making endeavor is part of a project in which Linden Elementary first-graders have been collecting plastic bottle caps.
A local family then takes the caps to Mexico where they are recycled with the proceeds used to help young cancer patients.
Now, local students and their teachers are capping off their wildly successful lid-collecting project. Community members have until Monday to submit the last of their collected lids.
As of Wednesday, students had collected 47 plastic totes full of bottle caps — and that was before they planned to meet in a weekly activity called, “Community,” in the school gym. During Community time, students dump the lids into a large plastic tote.
First-grade teacher Angela Willnerd said the project began last year after the Fremont Public Schools district challenged instructors to take on a project they were passionate about.
She and fellow first-grade teachers Heather Kroeger and Brandi Donahue formed a “Kindness Crew.”
Each month, all three classes of first-graders (57 students) conduct a project for the school, each other or the community.
The lid project started in October after Willnerd learned that a family of one of her students was collecting bottle caps.
Willnerd thought that would make a good schoolwide project so letters were sent home with every student, asking for bottle caps. People from the community began bringing them also.
The lids have come from pop, water, Gatorade and milk bottles.
“At the beginning, we would fill about two to three totes per month,” Willnerd said.
A story about the cap-collecting project appeared in the Fremont Tribune in February.
“After the community became involved — after the news story — then we began to fill seven to 11 totes per month,” she said.
People dropped off lids with para professionals or teachers or brought them to the office. Willnerd got lids from people in other school buildings.
The response was astounding.
“I was shocked and the family was shocked as well,” she said, smiling. “When I began this I didn’t think we would ever get to that point, but it’s been a really exciting adventure.”
Willnerd said the family already has taken a load to Mexico during spring break.
They took about a third of the collected caps — about 662 pounds.
And the family still has a lot of lids at home.
“They plan to travel back there at the end of May,” Willnerd said.
The family will take as many of the bottle caps as they can during that trip and intend to keep taking lids every time they return to Mexico.
Willnerd said the caps go to Iluminando Corazones A Ninos Con Cancer, an organization that helps children with cancer in Mexico.
A spokesperson for the group’s Facebook page said the caps are taken to a recycler and the money received helps the neediest of 64 cancer patients ages, 4-12. Funds are used to help provide food, bus tickets and medicine for the children, living in Reynosa, and receiving chemotherapy at hospitals in Monterrey and Victoria.
The spokesperson said in February that a pound of caps equals 13 cents.
First-grader Halle Haftings-Dougherty has enjoyed the project.
“The most fun part about it is when you get to dump the lids in the container and I like when you get to collect them and bring them here. It’s so much fun,” she said.
Besides collecting lids, Linden’s first-graders are making cards for each of the cancer patients.
The students are writing a message in Spanish inside the cards so the cancer patients will be able to read them.
Willnerd smiled again as she watched students carefully copying the Spanish words projected onto a dry erase board in the classroom and then drawing pictures on their cards.
“I think the best part is seeing how excited the kids are to help others,” Willnerd said.
Bethsaida appeared to enjoy making a card, which included a bright orange and yellow balloon with a smiley face, a girl and a boy standing on green hills and a red sun in a deep blue sky.
She also wrote the word “hola,” which means “hello” in Spanish on the card’s cover.
How does Bethsaida hope the child getting her card will feel?
“Happy,” she said.
Willnerd said school won’t do this project next year. Anyone who wants to keep collecting lids after the Monday deadline can search for the Iluminando Corazones A Ninos Con Cancer Facebook page and see if there’s a way they can send them.
In the meantime, students will look forward to Community time to see how many more lids will be collected.
And down the hall from Willnerd’s room, a sign on Donahue’s classroom door might sum up what the students have been trying to do.
The sign says: “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”