Because she can!
In 2018, 9-year-old Ashley Scalia told her mother she wanted to raise money for charity. “I told her that was a great idea, but that she needed to find a way that didn’t rely on asking people directly for donations,” explains her mother, Katie Scalia. The Scalia family lives in Connecticut where, to help reduce litter, most beverage containers are eligible for a cash refund when redeemed at a store or redemption center. So, they decided that collecting bottles and cans from their household and from friends and family would be the perfect way to provide a service to others while raising money.
After a lot of hard work collecting containers and redeeming them at their local supermarket for their deposit, Ashley and her younger sister Hailey each raised US$1,000 for local and international charity organizations.
“It started as just a small project for our family, but we saw an opportunity to help other kids feel a sense of purpose and give back,” explains Katie. “It really lifted our daughters up and made them feel good about themselves, and we thought, maybe we can help others feel good, too.”
Founding cans for a cause
Empowered by the sense of purpose and positive community impact that came from fundraising for charities through recycling cans and bottles, the Scalias founded Cans for a Cause. This formally established the organization and enabled other kids to raise funds through redeeming cans and bottles.
To participate, Cans for a Cause youth “team members” must register with the organization and commit to donating at least 50% of their collected deposit refunds to an organization of their choosing. The funds to be donated all go through Cans for a Cause to ensure they reach the benefiting organization.
“Our team members get lessons about how to go door-to-door to spread the word about the fundraisers, how to set attainable goals, how to save and spend, and how to show gratitude,” explains Katie. By allowing team members to keep some of their earnings if they choose, the kids learn budgeting and financial literacy and get to support a valuable cause. “We sort of think of it as them running their own business. They get promotional materials, like signs or even their own business cards, and support from Cans for a Cause, which creates a real sense of ownership,” Katie continues.
Inspiration can make a difference
Since its inception, Cans for a Cause has raised more than US$20,000 for more than 31 non-profit organizations and community initiatives, in Connecticut and beyond. Just some of the causes include local animal shelters, global conservation efforts, health and human services organizations, and educational initiatives. For youth team members who keep a portion of their earnings, it generally goes toward funding their participation in school sports and other extracurricular activities. The organization aspires to create chapters in other states with bottle bills, also known as deposit return schemes.
“It has definitely been rewarding for our team members. They’re seeing that you get out of it is what you put into it, and they have worked hard and raised such an impressive amount for these organizations,” says Katie.