By David Highfield

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Some children and hospital employees thought they were doing something to help cancer patients by collecting plastic bottle caps, but experts say it’s all a hoax.

Some employees at UPMC Shadyside and students in two local school districts collected thousands of caps for a program called “Caps for Chemo.”

“Our kids love to do anything to help other people,” said Jennifer Meliton, principal at Greenock Elementary in Elizabeth Township. She says it all started with a parent who works at UPMC Shadyside.

“She told me Shadyside was doing a collection for cancer patients where for every 1,000 caps that were donated, a cancer patient would receive a free chemo treatment,” said Meliton.

Meliton checked things out and discovered what UPMC confirms: that some employees at the hospital were indeed collecting caps for this supposed program, so kids at two schools in the district started, too.

In a neighboring district, the principal at Pleasant Hills Middle School says his students collected for the program last year and were about to begin collecting again this year.

That’s when everyone got the news that “Caps for Chemo” is a hoax, according to experts including and the American Cancer Society, which has a warning about the hoax on its website.

“We were disappointed,” said Meliton, who immediately sent out letters to parents.

As for the thousands of caps already collected her schools, UPMC has gotten involved to help. “While there is unfortunately no monetary value to the collected bottle caps, UPMC Shadyside is exploring opportunities for recycling the caps,” said UPMC Spokesperson Amy Dugas.

She says, however, that UPMC is not in a position to help any other people who may have collected caps.

Meliton is glad it can still be a positive experience for the kids. She said, “For the kids efforts, the winning class will still receive a pizza party, and you know, there may someone who sees a story like this and steps forward and makes a donation.”

The American Cancer Society says it’s unclear what the origin of the hoax is, but says the hoax has also surfaced in both Virginia and West Virginia.

It’s being called a “hoax” rather than a “scam” because no one is scammed out of any money in the ruse.

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