When she was 14 years old, Ashley Titter took a trip with her family to Atlanta. She didn't know how long they would stay or under which circumstances they would return.
All she knew was that her younger sister was sick.
Ashley Titter has collected tabs to help the Ronald McDonald house in Atlanta ever since she stayed there in 1997 while her sister Lindsay underwent a liver transplant.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
In 1997, the family took Lindsay, 11, to Egleston Children's Hospital for a liver transplant.
A week after the transplant, Lindsay experienced complications that eventually took her young life. The Titters were left to grieve two hours away from home, but not alone.
The family stayed at the Houston Mill Road Ronald McDonald House, which provided them with a support group throughout the ordeal - especially when the news of Lindsay's death was delivered.
"When we found out that my sister died, everyone was so supportive," Ashley said. "It's just like having your friends there."
To help pass the time and keep her mind off the situation, Ashley taped plastic-foam cups to every soda machine on each of the six floors of the hospital so that people to put soda-can tabs in them.
She donated the tabs to the Ronald McDonald House for its tab-collecting program. The charity sells the recycled aluminum tabs to raise funds.
"Some people would put coins in there and other stuff," Ashley said. "People were willing to help out."
What started as a way to escape the pain of the loss has turned into somewhat of an obsession. Four years later, the 18-year-old Augusta State University freshman is still collecting tabs.
She doesn't do it alone though. She gets help from her family, neighbors, and pupils at Evans Elementary school. Each grade level collects tabs and at the end of the year, and the grade with the most is rewarded with an ice cream party.
"I want to give back to the McDonald House because they helped me and my family so much," Ashley said.
Houston Road House Director Kim Cunningham said that many children participate in the tab program but that Ashley's commitment stands out.
"The Titter family has been wonderful," Cunningham said. "She has been very diligent at it."
Cunningham said her house is on pace to receive 11,400 pounds of tabs this year, which would raise almost $4,400.
Mark Titter, Ashley's father, said Ashley has given 380 pounds by herself this year. He said they usually take the tabs twice a year.
"When I can't get the car in the garage, we put them in the car and take them to Atlanta," Mark said.
Ashley is driven by the knowledge that her sister would do the same thing given the same situation and by the support given to her family during its time of need. She said she had no plans to stop collecting, only to expend her operation.
"It's just being able to give back," she said. "I can't give back everything that they give me but it gives me back a small part."
Pitching in:Ashley said she is always looking for more tabs. Anyone interested in helping is invited to e-mail Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org
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