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10 DEC 2021

Eight-year-old superstar fundraises for medical research

At 8 years old, Ethan Fenn has taken more than 46,000 tablets. At the age of only 11 months, he was diagnosed with cystinosis, a rare genetic disorder that means Ethan must have ongoing treatment for the rest of his life.

In 2019, Ethan decided to fundraise for cystinosis research. He and his family, who live in Rutherford, also fundraise so he can attend an annual medical conference in California (when travel is allowed) and participate in studies and tests on his condition.

His goal for this year is to raise one cent for each tablet he has taken in the past seven years – $4,600 – for the Cystinosis Research Foundation (CRF). And his favourite fundraising channel is the Return and Earn NSW container deposit scheme.

“Ethan and his siblings started collecting our cans and bottles from home and recycling them,” says his mother, Amanda. “We decided to put up a post on our community Facebook page asking if anyone had cans and bottles laying around that we could collect to help Ethan reach his goal.”

She says they had an “overwhelming response” to her post, and now they have supporters who save all their containers for Ethan and his mum to collect each month. Other people return their containers themselves and give their refunds to Ethan. “Over the last two years Ethan has recycled over 11,000 cans and bottles, and raised over $1,000 for the CRF,” says Amanda.

Amanda says Ethan enjoys meeting people face-to-face when collecting containers and being able to thank them for their help.

Although they also fundraise in other ways, including selling chocolates, Amanda says that container collections seem to have had the biggest impact as it allows more people to help. “We find that with Return and Earn it is easy for people to contribute without being out of pocket,” she says. “We have even had kids save their cans and bottles and donate them to Ethan.”

During COVID-19 container collecting has been on hold. Due to Ethan’s weakened immune system, he and Amanda need to be extremely cautious, and limit their movements as much as possible. However, once it is safe again, they are keen to continue with container returns. In the meantime, Ethan enjoys helping educate people about his condition. “I love being famous and having so many followers knowing about cystinosis,” Ethan says.

To support Ethan’s fundraising for his trip to the US medical conference (when restrictions allow) visit:

Return and Earn recommend checking the status of your nearest return point before visiting, and avoiding peak times where possible.

Anyone visiting a return point must ensure they comply with the latest Public Health Orders, including checking-in via the QR code displayed, wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing of at least 1.5 metres from others, and practicing good hygiene.


Interested in fundraising through Return and Earn like Ethan? Find out more on our Fundraising page.

Return and Earn is a partnership between the NSW Government, scheme coordinator Exchange for Change and network operator TOMRA Cleanaway.