A South Dakota man spent a month hauling aluminum cans and other metals to a recycling plant. Now he's sending the check to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Gerald Schied, 65, said he's always collected cans. One day, 11 years ago, as he sat with his sons, he pondered what to do with them.
"I kept seeing Make-A-Wish commercials on TV and newspapers, something was drawing me in there, I looked at my son and said: 'Why don't we just haul them in and have them make the check out to Make-A-Wish,'" Schied said.
The first donation of Schied's cans and scrap metal resulted in a $65,000 check. Schied got a $40,000 check on Tuesday for his latest collection, which he's been working on for three years. By his count, he had collected more than a million cans.
"I think we were close to a million and a quarter but we were shy of that," he said.
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To ease his collection process, Schied built his own can crusher. The crushed cans are then stored in large containers he calls "totes." Each tote can hold about 9,000 cans, he said.
"I had 131 (totes) shipped to my house and stacked on top of each other in two layers," Schied said.
Other than cans, Schied said he collects different pieces of aluminum from motors, boat parts and even totaled cars.
Apart from his own donations, Schied said he has a system of 50 people with barrels he collects cans from, and more than 200 other people giving him cans. He's now working on setting up drop-off locations in Huron for locals.
Sue Salter, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish South Dakota and Montana, praised Schied as a "powerful" force for good, describing him as "one of these unique individuals who has the ability to rally an entire community behind those efforts."
Make-A-Wish helps fund the wishes of children ages 3-18 who have critical illnesses.
"One of the most incredible things about Gerald, I think, is his heart. He has the biggest heart for children, particularly children with critical illnesses," Salter told USA TODAY on Thursday. "And he not only raises money for us, raises awareness for our mission, but he also serves as an active volunteer as one of our wish granters out here... The work that Gerald is doing, and the people who support him in this project, they bring that hope to life for these kids that we serve and their families."
Backed by community support, Schied's system of collecting cans continues to grow and become more complex. And, Schied doesn't plan on stopping his collection anytime soon.
"I'm going to work one more year until I'm 66, then I'm going to retire and, yes, I will be doing cans after that," Schied told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader of the USA TODAY Network.
Contributing: Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota man donates $105K to Make-A-Wish after recycling 1M cans