N.B. teacher keeps promise to collect one million bread tags in student's memory
CHIPMAN, N.B. -- When a student asked Susan Weaver what one million looks like, she didn't know what to say, but she promised the eight-year-old she would find out.
The New Brunswick teacher recently reached a milestone in her attempt to keep that vow -- years after the student's tragic death.
"R.J. was in my Grade 4 class at Coles Island School, and he was a very precocious little boy," Weaver said of R.J. Vail.
He was curious, he loved learning, but wasn't as eager to write things down.
"So it was kind of a bribe how it started," Weaver said. "I had said, 'You can ask me whatever question you want but you have to write it in this journal.' So he came in one morning, waiting at the door, and he had his journal and he asked, 'How much does a million look like?'"
Weaver didn't have the answer, but the two decided they would collect one million of something.
"So when he came in with a can of bread tags, it seemed, I thought, a perfect thing to collect," Weaver said. "At the end of the year, he made me promise to keep collecting."
She made that promise in 1998 and she's kept it in memory of R.J.
"When he was killed in the car accident, we were still collecting, probably only had one or two bottles full, and it's just -- that was my word, so I needed to give, to follow through with that promise no matter what and when he was gone, it felt even more important to honour my word to him."
Kendra Vail, is R.J.'s sister and says Weaver inspired her brother to want to learn.
It was only recently that R.J.'s mom and sister found out that Weaver was still collecting bread tags.
"What she has done just keeping the promise, it means so much, and it would have meant so much to him, to know she was still doing it," says Penny Stevens, R.J.'s mom
Weaver is still going strong and inside her classroom at Chipman Elementary School, she has the bread tags in 10 giant water bottles. Each bottle has 50,000 bread tags and there are 10 of them, so she's halfway to her goal.
"I think we can get there, we just need a little more help, we need more people to remember R.J.," Weaver said. "I just have a little Cheese Whiz jar in my bread drawer and when I find a bread tag, I put it in the jar and when the jar is full, I bring it in and the kids count them."
Weaver is accepting donations and has started a Facebook page to spread the word and provide a list of drop-off locations in New Brunswick.
She'd like to get there before she retires, so she can teach her students two lessons:
What a million of something looks like, and how important it is to keep a promise.
"He's up there beaming," Kendra Vail says of her brother.