Popping Tabs to Pay it Forward

Popping Tabs to Pay it Forward

infant in nicu

When Theresa Petrey went into early labor at 26 weeks with her first daughter, she had no idea what the future would hold. Baby Mahrianna was born in December 2014, weighing just over two pounds. She would spend her first three months in the NICU, until she was healthy and strong enough to go home. Theresa and her husband were able to stay just minutes away at the Ronald McDonald House, where they would celebrate their first Christmas as a family.

Of course, you want to be at home for your child’s first Christmas, but the Ronald McDonald House made it feel like home for us. We got to celebrate and be near our daughter in the NICU, which was the most important thing to us at that time.

Theresa Forlini-Petrie

A collage of the girls and their pull tab collectionTheresa’s grandfather had been collecting pop tabs for a local nonprofit before his passing. When her grandmother visited her at the Ronald McDonald House, she brought a container of the tabs to donate. That got Forlini-Petrey thinking about collecting tabs to “pay it forward” for the next families who would need the House. She began collecting pull tabs and asking friends and family to collect them too.

Since then, Theresa’s Facebook group “Popping Tabs Medina County and Surrounding Areas” has grown to almost 450 members and has proudly joined the Collect-A-Million Club for collecting over a million pull tabs for RMHC NEO. In 2022, the group donated 2,000 lbs. of pull tabs and are planning to exceed that this year.

Today, Mahrianna is a healthy, happy, and very energetic eight-year-old with a six-year-old sister, Juliana. Growing up in a community galvanized by their story, both girls love collecting pull tabs through school, local churches, and their neighborhood.

Being at the Ronald McDonald House gave us a sense of peace…that’s a priceless gift that I can never repay.


The Petrie girls balancing on a light pole.

Donations allow families like the Forlini-Petreys to stay together near the hospital where their children are receiving treatment. A comfortable room in a welcoming and supportive environment, meals, activities and other amenities are all free of charge to families.

Your gift today ensures we can support more families tomorrow.