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Published: Thu, April 8, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



Tabs are donated in memory of the late Jerry DelBoccio.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

HIRD-GRADER MARY O'Donnell knows the reason she spends her free time in class counting the silver pop can tabs collected by her schoolmates.

"To save the people that have cancer," she said. "The other people that are sick might not be able to save themselves."

Mary, of Youngstown, and the other pupils in her class at St. Christine School have counted 420,390 of the donated pop tabs since the start of the school year. Later this spring they'll turn the tabs over to the Silver Lining Fund of Youngstown, a group that sells the aluminum to help those who are sick.

"It's wonderful," said teacher Wendy Sammarone DelBoccio, who started the collection campaign three years ago after her husband died of cancer.

In its first year, the project collected 240,000 tabs; last year, it collected 338,000.

The success has amazed DelBoccio, who had set a goal of 400,000 this year.

"I figure if we've made it to 500,000, then we could make a million," she said. "They just keep coming."

The tabs go to the Texas Auto Wrecking Co. of Youngstown, where the owner turns the tabs into cash for the fund and complements the cash amount with his own donation.

How money is used

The money helps pay for cancer treatments, utilities or other assistance for cancer patients who need financial help, DelBoccio said. The pupils receive details about where the money goes and know that they have helped a 12-year-old child and an elderly person.

DelBoccio, who is in her 12th year teaching at St. Christine's, said her third-graders first begin by counting tabs in tens, then hundreds. Eventually they use calculators and mark containers to show tens of thousands before transferring tabs into large plastic bins.

"It's fun," said third-grader Michael Trefethern of Youngstown. "The whole school was helping us."

Jerry DelBoccio, an accountant for General Motors Corp., died Jan. 5, 2001, after an eight-year battle with cancer that attacked his stomach and esophagus. Over the years, the cancer came back three times, his wife said.

The summer after he died, Wendy DelBoccio learned about the Silver Lining Fund at the Canfield Fair and decided that helping the group would be a fitting memorial to her husband.

The couple were married 21 years and have two grown children, Tony and Dorothy.

"When he was diagnosed with cancer, he made it his duty to go talk to others," DelBoccio said, adding that her husband always stayed positive and used his own survival to show people that they could recover. "So I had to do something to remember him."

The entire St. Christine community donates tabs, as do others in the area. DelBoccio said she's even received donations from families in Florida.

"It's unbelievable that there are so many good and wonderful people," she said. "We are so fortunate."




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