The Gleaner

Genie in a Bottle Project sets big goals for 2022

The Genie in a Bottle Project, run by Shirley Cavanagh, is a Valley organization that aims to help both the environment and two local charities: the Betty Riel Foundation and VOBOC (Venturing Out Beyond Our Cancer). Founded in November of 2019, the initiative has set and surpassed impressive goals, and has big plans for 2022.

Cavanagh started the organization for a few reasons. In 2010, she was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. VOBOC, an organization that provides resources, outings, and support for cancer patients aged 18-35, helped her and others participate in various activities together outside of cancer treatment. Cavanagh says, “We were eight patients who did our treatments together; unfortunately, I lost four of my best friends [who were] under the age of 35 in our second year.” As for the Betty Riel foundation, Cavanagh’s mother has been friends with Riel since the 60s and has benefited from the Foundation’s services, so Cavanagh knew she had to support them in any way she could.

In 2019, both Cavanagh and her mother were diagnosed with cancer. Because she had to take an 11-month leave from work, Cavanagh was unable to donate to charities like she usually would. “I wanted to figure out a different way to donate,” she explains, and so came up with the bottle drive idea. “I figured I’d raise about $2000,” she recalls, but the project quickly spiraled into something much bigger. Currently, she is raising $500 per month for each charity.

At this point, Cavanagh is fully occupied. “I say [I have] three full time jobs: beating cancer, my regular job, and the bottles.” With her contributions and the help of volunteers, upwards of 600 hours are put into the Genie in a Bottle Project per month.


The Genie in a Bottle Project has recycled at least 152,806 aluminum cans over the past 15 months, as well as a staggering number of glass and plastic bottles. PHOTO Courtesy of Genie in a Bottle


By the end of 2021, the endeavour had raised a total of $25,273.45. Of that money, $12,133.05 went to VOBOC, $12,140.40 went to the Betty Riel Foundation, and $1000 went to Athelstan’s 50th anniversary fireworks.

That amount of money means a huge environmental impact as well. The organization has recycled 152,806 aluminum cans, 20,084 beer bottles, 2293 glass bottles, and 17,380 plastic soft drink bottles. Because of the pandemic and curfew, the project was completely shut down for about seven months; Cavanagh estimates that the numbers represent the work of about 15 months.

Cavanagh has big plans for 2022: she hopes to raise $15,000 to be divided amongst the benefitting charities. $12,000 would be donated to VOBOC and the Betty Riel Foundation – $500 per charity per month – and the rest would be distributed to various Valley places in need. She also plans to donate to the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society according to a promise she made to a volunteer who has two children with MS.

Also this year, Genie in a Bottle is shifting into another phase. “Our local MNA, Mme IsaBelle, and her team approached me to say that if we become incorporated as an official nonprofit, the government [and the project] could work together,” says Cavanagh. This would allow the project’s work to continue, but on a bigger scale and in more municipalities. “[MNA Claire IsaBelle] actually reached out to the environmental minister who wants to work with us to get stuff going.”

When the project first began, Cavanagh was driving to Cornwall, Ontario, to drop off 300 to 400 cans at a time. Now, with the help of Darragh Trucking, she is able to use a 53-foot semi-trailer to donate 18,700 units at a time, and the run is made every six weeks. Darragh Trucking has also donated space at 822 Route 138, where people can donate bottles and cans 24/7.

This year, the project is organizing three community days (April 9, July 2, and October 8), during which everyone is encouraged to bring donations (alcohol bottles separated by colour and without caps, soda cans with tabs removed, plastic bottles with capes removed). Soft drink tabs, bread tabs, corks, plastic and metal tops from bottles, dead batteries and light bulbs (LED) are also accepted, but they must be separate from the cans and bottles as they are passed on to other organizations in the Valley.

Cavanagh is extremely grateful to the community which has helped to make her project so successful. She challenges everyone to save their recycling and donate it in order to help raise money for the charities as well as lower their carbon footprint. She emphasizes that “The success of our project is due to word-of-mouth,” and reminds people that “Every can or bottle can change the life of a cancer patient and help the environment by keeping them out of the landfill; therefore, no number of cans is too small.”

For more information, or to donate a large number of cans or bottles, contact Shirley Cavanagh- at 514-705-6667, Esther Cavanagh at 514-264-6667, or send a message to the Genie in a Bottle Facebook page.

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