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Bikers collect 1,200 gallons of poptops

Suzi Karvonen runs her hands through a barrel brimming with poptops as Greg Karvonen and Scott Anderson unload a trailer full of donated aluminum tabs.

When Greg Karvonen collided with a deer while leaving Parkers Prairie on his motorcycle a few years ago he did not know he would spend 30 days in a coma - much less live to ride another day and help other people in the process.

The frightened deer hit Karvonen broadside and that was that. Not only was Karvonen in the hospital for more than six weeks, the front part of his skull had to be removed by surgeons to allow his injured brain to swell. It was not at all certain that he would survive his ordeal.

The same kind of miracle that saved the New York Mills rider from his horrific motorcycle accident emerged last Saturday in Wadena as Greg and his wife, Suzi, joined their friend Scott Anderson in cashing 1,200 gallons of poptops at Wadena Hide and Fur. There are 5,000 poptops to a gallon.

Because the poptops (the tabs that open aluminum pop and beer cans) are pure aluminum, Wadena Hide and Fur was willing to pay a premium price of 67 cents a pound, or more, for them.

"We're still negotiating," Karvonen said with a smile.

The New York Mills ride which raises money for the charity has been touching base in Wadena for the last 10 years. The ride has grown to more than 1,000 bikes.

Asking for poptops brought out some tremendous generosity this year along with Herculean efforts.

"One guy brought 120 pounds of poptops on his cycle from Wisconsin," Anderson said.

The money goes to the Ronald McDonald House, which benefits the families of children who are spending an extended length of time in a hospital due to illness or injury. More than 300 Ronald McDonald houses have been opened since the program began more than three decades ago. The global organization receives 86 percent of all funds raised by its chapters.