COLORADO SPRINGS — It was a tabulous journey. And her endeavor was a labor of love and stubborn devotion.    

Donna Leonetti, the Las Animas County Treasurer, has been collecting aluminum tabs for nine years.   

She shattered her own record of 400-pounds on November 18, when she turned in 450-pounds of the tiny and shiny pieces of aluminum to the coffers of the Ronald McDonald House in Colorado Springs. The new and beautiful 20-room, 25,000 square feet of a sanctuary home has recently opened their doors and arms to families in distress so they can stay close to their children during hospitalizations at no personal cost.     

The Ronald McDonald House is a ray of sunshine during the black storm.     

She started her drive in 2010. “I was looking for something to make a difference,” she said, “and I found that the Ronald McDonald House was an organization where one-hundred percent of donations go to the meals and housing of families with sick children. I taped the listing for the Ronald McDonald House on my refrigerator to remind me everyday. When I learned that some local families have utilized the Ronald McDonald House it made it even more viable. It was a perfect choice for me.”    

Encouraged by a town, a state, and family and friends, Leonetti’s 450-pound haul may even be a national record for an individual. The tabs, a pure form of aluminum, is recycled by Koscove Metals in Colorado Springs and the 100-year-old recycling company matches donations that are collected for the Ronald McDonald House.      

The donations poured in all year from different cities in Colorado, various other states like California and New Mexico and even a bag from Saraburi, Thailand. Major donors have been the Fisher’s Peak Elementary School in a drive spearheaded by the 2nd to 5th grades, La Casa, Cripple Creek, Trinidad and Las Vegas, N.M. Elk’s Clubs, the Trinidad Correctional Prison, and Trinidad local bars. There were also large donations from individuals, but too many to mention.     

The seeds of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Colorado (RMHCSC) were planted in Philadelphia in 1974 when Kim Hill, the 3-year-old daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill, was diagnosed with leukemia. Mr. Hill and his wife, Fran, camped out on hospital chairs and benches, ate food from vending machines and did all they could to keep Kim from seeing their sadness, exhaustion and frustration.      

All around them, the Hills saw other parents doing exactly the same thing—many families had traveled great distances to bring their children to the medical facility for care and found the high cost of hotel rooms prohibitive.  With the help of Philadelphia Eagles’ General Manager, Jim Murray, who had connections to McDonald’s franchisees, and Dr. Audrey Evans, head of pediatric oncology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the first Ronald McDonald House that served as a temporary home for families of hospitalized children opened on October 15, 1974.   

The movement began. There are now 365 Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the world.     

“It’s a credit to Donna’s passion to go from one small barrel years ago to 450-pounds,” said Development Director of the Ronald McDonald House, Sam Milam, “It’s astounding, actually. We don’t know what to expect from her anymore. She has rallied a lot of people to her drive effort. It’s a blessing because it helps to keep families close together when they need it the most in a stressful time.”     

Volunteer Manager, Emily Berg, was ecstatic to help unload the barrels of shiny tabs. “It’s really something to see how Donna rallies her community and people from all over the state and beyond. It’s incredible. We can’t wait to see what she does next year.”     

“I want to remind people it wasn’t just me,” Leonetti said. “It was all those fine organizations and people who donated tabs. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, and encourage them to do it again.”     

“We so much appreciate someone like Donna who makes a difference,” concluded Milam, “the world could use more people like Donna.”    

For more information on the Ronald McDonald House visit mhcsoutherncolorado.org.

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