SOUTH PORTLAND — Sam Rideout played the role of Santa Claus this year by delivering gifts to children who are less fortunate than he is.
Not bad for a third-grader at Waldo T. Skillin Elementary School.
For the second year in a row, the 9-year-old known around South Portland as “Sam the Bottle Man” held a month-long bottle drive to raise money to buy toys for children at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.
Depending on size, bottle deposits range from 5 to 15 cents, but every bottle and every cent can make a difference.
Last year, Rideout raised $800. His goal this year was to raise enough money to buy a Brady Buggy Wagon, which goes for $1,000. The wagons have a trailer hitch to tow a child’s IV pole – allowing kids to be mobile in the hospital – even during chemotherapy treatments.
Rideout doubled his goal, raising $2,000 – enough to also buy a firetruck wagon and use the remaining money for smaller toys, such as Legos, dolls, and arts-and-crafts supplies. He plans to deliver the gifts later this week.
“This year was a really big year,” Rideout said Dec. 27.
The idea came to Rideout last year after seeing a Toys for Tots bin at Toys R Us. He told his mother he wanted to use his birthday money to buy toys to put in the bin, but instead, she suggested he hold a drive of his own.
Throughout the month of December, bottles could be dropped off at “Sam the Bottle Man” marked donation bins at the South Portland Redemption Center and at the Falmouth, Casco Bay and North Yarmouth hockey arenas.
On Saturday, Dec. 9, Rideout stood outside the redemption center in the snow wearing a neon green “Sam the Bottle Man” sweatshirt while collecting $520 worth of bottles.
Bags of bottles were also delivered to Rideout’s home and Alewives Brooks Farm in Cape Elizabeth, where Rideout spends his mornings before school helping out his aunt, Town Councilor Caitlin Jordan.
If people needed bottles picked up, Rideout would do that, too. He even set up a bank account – under the name of Sam the Bottle Man, of course –for people to donate to the cause.
When he’s not collecting bottles or lending a hand on the farm, Rideout can be found playing hockey with the Casco Bay Hockey Association.
This year, the bottle drive hit close to home for Rideout. One of his friends and a fellow hockey player, Nolan Cyr, recently returned home from The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital after fighting bone cancer. Cyr is now cancer free, but will likely never play hockey again.
Rideout said he feels lucky to be able to spend his Christmas mornings at home with his family and helping others feels “awesome.”
Between now and next winter, he said, he hopes to raise even more money than this year by holding bottle drives throughout the year.
“I’m going to do this for the rest of my life,” Rideout said.
Sam Rideout, a.k.a. “Sam the Bottle Man,” holds up a bag of bottles donated to his second annual bottle drive. This year the South Portland third-grader raised $2,000, which he used to buy toys for children at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.