Courtesy Photo - Junior Miss Rabbit Fest Gabriella Ortiz is surrounded by bags of pull tabs from aluminum cans. Gabi donated more than 10,000 tabs weighing more than 25 pounds to the Ronald McDonald House in Temple.

Local beauty queen fights for kids with cancer

Special to the Leader-Press
“1, 2, 3…568. 569, 580,” 8-year old Gabriella Ortiz said as she counted the pop tabs she had collected to help kids who are fighting cancer. She looked around her at the piles upon piles of plastic bags filled to the brim with more small aluminum pieces. Gabi realized it would take her hours upon hours to count all of the tabs collected and with a sigh, decided she would find out how many she had collected when she made a trip to the Ronald McDonald House in Temple to deliver the huge bounty.
Ortiz is the reigning Junior Miss Rabbit Fest whose platform of service this year is Caring for Kids with Cancer. The petite 3rd grader at Clements/Parsons Elementary cut her waist length hair into a bob within weeks after being crowned the city’s newest royalty. She donated her brunette locks to a children’s organization that creates wigs for young patients who have lost their hair through chemotherapy treatments.
Gabi knew it would take her another year to grow her hair back out. So, what else could she do to help kids who are cancer? She decided to collect pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House and began her campaign in the late fall. Businesses, organizations, schools and other groups were collecting for Gabi’s project with large donations coming in from Michele’s Floral & Gifts, Williams/Ledger Elementary, and others. But, the windfall came from the Copperas Cove Morning Exchange Club which donated an estimated 5,000 tabs to Gabi’s project.
“We took containers to places and asked if they would help collect the soda tabs,” Gabi said. “We asked friends and family to help collect also.”
Michele’s Floral & Gifts, Williams/Ledger Elementary and other organizations turned in collected tabs to Ortiz. But, she got a big boost when the Copperas Cove Morning Exchange Club donated an estimated 5,000 tabs to the project. 
“We have been collecting them for a while,” Exchange Club President Clarence Enochs said. “Some of them are so old that they are the old pull tabs.” 
Gabi had to retrieve a wagon from the Ronald McDonald House to get the jars, bags and boxes of tabs transported inside. She was excited at the thought of finding out how many tabs in all had been collected. With the help of her royalty family, bags, jars and containers of tabs began pouring into a large industrial garbage can. With each container emptied into the can, the mound of tabs continued to climb higher and high toward the top. In the end, the tabs weighed an estimated 25 pounds equaling more than 10,000 tabs. 
The charity receives twice the market rate per pound to help fund the expenses of the facility that is used as a home-away-from-home for families who have a child hospitalized at nearby Scott and White. The titleholders were also taken on a tour of the house so they understood how donating the tabs would benefit those living in the facility. 
The eager beauty queen has not ended her quest. She has asked all of her collection sites to continue to save their pop tabs and she will make one more delivery to the Ronald McDonald House before she relinquishes her crown in May. 
In the meantime, Gabi  has begun another collection to help kids fight cancer. It is the Bling for Bravery project where the Snowflake Foundation replaces the neck ribbons of old marathon/run medals and gives them to children with cancer to encourage them to complete the race and survive the deadly disease. Medals for Gabi’s Bling for Bravery project may be turned in at the CCISD Central Office at 703 W. Ave. D, Michele’s Floral and Gifts at 821 E. US Hwy. 190, or the Copperas Cove Leader Press office.


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Copperas Cove, TX 76522
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