Thousands of tuna cans answer Marseilles boy’s 6th birthday wish

6-year-old Maximilian Claahsen asked for tuna cans to donate to food pantry

Six-year-old Maximilian Claahsen stacks some of the cans of tuna donated to the Marseilles Food Pantry in honor of his upcoming birthday. His drive netted 1,144 cans for those in need.

Nothing makes Maximilian Claahsen happier than stacking cans – specifically those of tuna fish because they fit so well together and are just the right size for his small hands.

The only thing that could make that project more fun for him is if doing so also can help people in need.

This week, he’s doing both.

To celebrate his sixth birthday Wednesday, the Marseilles youth made an appeal to family, friends, area businesses and community members for cans of tuna fish that he could enjoy stacking into towers before turning them over to the Marseilles Food Pantry for distribution to its patrons.

A similar drive for his fourth birthday drew 76 cans, so he was hoping this year he could reach 100 – but this year was not even close to that number.

A total of 1,144 cans of tuna fish have found their way to the Marseilles pantry, which is operated by Maximilian’s mother, Carolyn Claahsen, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 200 Broadway St.

“People and people and people kept coming with tuna cans – so many people that we have a shelf full of tuna,” said Maximilian, who battles through cerebral palsy to help move boxes to help out at the pantry. “It surprised me and surprised my mom, too. We have so many tuna cans now – 1,000 of them.

“I feel good about helping people that need it. It makes me happy.”

So many cans have been dropped off, delivered and ordered by the community that the pantry has set aside an entire shelf just for tuna fish, the number likely exceeding all the rest of the canned goods there combined.

One package of 60 cans came by mail, while one donor dropped off a whopping 200 cans.

Among the major contributors were D&S, the Marseilles Lions Club, the Marseilles Rotary and Financial Plus Credit Union in Ottawa.

Maximilian, who said he likes tuna salad but his favorite food is grapes, has a stacking history dating back to his early years, much like his charitable interests.

Always asking for friends to donate to the food pantry for his birthday, he takes advantage of their generosity to feed his stacking habit for a while when he’s on hand at the food pantry. It continues at home, where he stacks them in his toy delivery truck and shuttles them around the house.

Either way, it always ends up with helping feed those in need.

“It’s a long story, going back to when I was 2,” he said. “That’s when I started stacking the tuna cans. It’s always been tuna cans because they fit together so good.

“Now I stack them until people need them, the people who come here and people who we deliver to for distribution day, which is on Tuesdays. … It’s good to help people who need help.”

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