Children, Victims of Urban Legend, Collect 40,000 Pull-Tabs

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ROY, Utah (AP) -- Dana Leeds' children collected 40,000 aluminum can pull-tabs because they thought they would buy kidney dialysis for a little girl -- but it was just an urban legend.

Although the little girl did not exist, the tabs did no go to waste. The Ronald McDonald House accepted them.

Collecting pull tabs to buy kidney dialysis time is an urban legend that has been around for decades. It was included in the urban legends Jan Brunvand, former University of Utah English professor, wrote about in three books in the 1980s.

Aluminum recyclers regularly get thousands of pull tabs from people trying to donate to dialysis, only to be told that nobody needs the help and the tabs are only worth what they bring in scrap.

Kidney dialysis is paid for by the federal and state governments and private insurance. There never has been a program to redeem pull tabs for money to buy dialysis.

All this came as a surprise to Leeds, who said one of her children heard that one tab would buy one minute of time on a dialysis machine for a little girl and decided to help.

"That was the thing, part of the motivation," she said. "We were saving this little girl's life. My kids were doing the math. They'd say 'Hey we got another hour and a half of dialysis!' "

Her three children, Jacob, 6, Ethan, 10, and Shade, 11, really got into it, she said. They canvassed the neighborhood. "They walk up to young friends and say 'You've got to give me those, I'm saving a life.' "

By Wednesday, she said, they had 40,000 of the things, and she called around to find where to take them.

Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake told her she'd been taken in.

However, Beth Eshelman, volunteer coordinator at Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City, said the house collects tabs as a way to encourage community awareness, not for the small amount of money they can get for recycling them.

The house provides a home, transportation, and other help for families of children who must travel long distances to use Salt Lake hospitals.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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