Sam “The Bottle Man” Rideout is collecting cans and bottles to as donations at Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth. He said that he and his family will then use the money redeemed to purchase toys and equipment for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. Catherine Bart photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — Sam “The Bottle Man” Rideout is only 11 years old, but he has become a local celebrity and hero to children at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.

Sam, who lives in South Portland, began his philanthropic journey four years ago. After he said he used remaining birthday money to purchase a toy for a Toys for Tots bin that he saw, he was inspired to make a flyer for his neighbors asking for bottles and cans in an effort to raise money.

He started to grow his name from there, said Sam’s aunt, Caitlin Jordan, business manager of Alewive’s Brook Farm and town councilor in Cape Elizabeth. He has been able to purchase toys and even some pieces of expensive medical equipment for children who might be spending the holiday season in the hospital.

Meaghan McNamara, a philanthropy specialist at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, said that the donated toys Sam and others purchase will go into the hospital’s “Snowflake Station,” a room where parents of patients can “purchase” gifts for their children and even choose to have Santa deliver them on Christmas morning.

This year, Sam said, his goal is to raise $10,000. According to a post on his Facebook page, he has raised about $7,000 so far.

After visiting the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital himself a few years ago for some complications with an autoimmune disease, Sam said that he knows how frustrating it can be for a child to be sitting in the hospital, especially during the end of the year.

“I can help kids in the hospital, make their Christmas better,” he said. “Because they’re just stuck in there.”

McNamara said that Sam raised $6,3000 for the hospital last year, calling him one of the most special 11-year-olds anyone will ever meet.

“When you think about the fact that Sam is able to do this, 5 cents at a time from every bottle deposit, it just goes to show you his dedication to giving back and to helping the kids at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital,” McNamara said in an email. “He is hard at work year-round, and his story is proof that everyone can make a difference. We are so grateful to get to work with him — and be inspired by his kindness and generosity — during the holidays each year.”

Rolando’s Redemption Center and South Portland Redemption have been helping Sam’s goal become a reality, Jordan said. Alewives Brook Farm also has a donation bin, a gift given by South Portland Redemption, in front of the property now.

The project has become a community effort, Sam and Jordan said. His classmates at school have donated, and he has even made announcements on the school’s intercom about his project.

Sam’s mother helped him come up with the name, “Sam the Bottle Man,” he said, and she and his sister will also help in picking out gifts, like baby clothes, for the hospital patients.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my family,” Sam said.

Jordan said that so many people in the community have been helping Sam out, especially after his first year.

“The first year we did it, people were calling and asking how they could donate, and we didn’t know what to do,” Jordan said. “We had to open a bank account.”

The family recently opened a Venmo account: @samthebottleman, to accept donations.

Sam has appeared on television and makes regular appearances on the radio, Jordan said.

“I could have been on Good Morning America last year,” Sam said, “but it was a little too late to get on. That would have been crazy! Maybe they’ll ask me again next year.”

Besides the recognition, Sam said that he didn’t ever think he could raise so much money. When he remembers his first year, when he raised $1,000, and thinks about the present, with his $10,000 goal, he’s blown away.

He said that his motto is “Kids can help kids.”

While this started out as just a neighborhood project, Sam’s charity work is only continuing to grow, and he said he wants to keep up the bottle gig as long as he can.

“I’ve learned a lot of things,” he said. “You can’t give up. You can’t be upset if someone doesn’t want to donate their bottles.”

Jordan said that Sam will be done with donations this year around the middle of December, but he still has a couple of bottle drives left.

Sam will be at Casco Bay Hockey on Dec. 7 and 8, collecting bottles and cans.

His last bottle drive at the redemption centers will be on Dec. 14, said Jordan.

When asked how other kids can make a difference Sam suggested they “just make a flyer for their neighborhood, and grow it from there.”

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