Two-time cancer survivor in Quebec creates bottle drive to give back to charity

Felicia Parrillo/Global News

In a Pointe-Claire’s parking lot on Saturday morning, dozens of volunteers gathered to help collect and sort donated wine and alcohol bottles.

All morning long, people drove through and dropped off hundreds of empty bottles for a fundraising drive called Genie in a Bottle.

The initiative was created by Shirley Cavanagh, a two-time cancer survivor.

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She says she came up with the idea last year, after noticing how many people toss empty bottles into the garbage or recycling.

She thought the bottles could be of better use.

So she began collecting empty bottles, at first, from friends and family and then eventually, from local communities, through fundraising drives. She takes the bottles to Ontario and returns them to the Beer Store for money.

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The funds are donated to two organizations: the VOBOC foundation — a charity that helps teens and young adults with cancer, that once helped Cavanagh as a young adult; and the Betty Riel Fund — which helps fund transportation for cancer patients.

“I was re-diagnosed with cancer last year, and so was my mom,” said Cavanagh. “So it’s a charity that’s close to the heart. And we figured if we could give back to them we’d like to.”

Though the main mission of the drive is to help cancer patients, Cavanagh said another big part of the bottle collection is to help the environment.

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“One of the missions of the project now is to work with different municipalities. We know that recycling is a big problem, so it’s a win-win for everybody – we can help change the life of a cancer patient and also help the environment,” she said.

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Saturday’s drive was made possible with the help of the city of Pointe-Claire.

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Mayor John Belvedere said lending the parking lot to the initiative was a no-brainer.

“It’s a great opportunity to help out the community, a great, cause and to help out the environment,” he said.

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Cavanagh is hoping to organize more bottle drives this winter, but said she’ll need help from local municipalities — she’ll need indoor spaces once it gets too cold to collect outside.

To date, Genie in a Bottle has collected around 20,000 bottles, donating more than $5,700 to charity.


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