As we celebrate hitting our 10,000 volunteer mark, we’re feeling a little nostalgic. In eight years of hosting waterway cleanups across the country, we’ve met some seriously inspiring people. People who show up even after a long day at work, or in the sweltering heat, or - on one occasion - in a nonstop downpour.
Whether you’re one of these fine folks or a cleanup kindred spirit whose town we have yet to visit (you’re on our list, we promise!), we want to thank you for helping us preserve the planet all year long. Here, our favorite moments from the journey so far.
The year: 2016. The place: Kittanning, PA. The haul: an actual mountain of tires frozen under a harsh December snow. When we came across this illegal dumpsite in western Pennsylvania, portions of the adjacent creek had effectively become a landfill. With a tireless crew of volunteers, we successfully removed 600,000 pounds of tires, which we sent off to live their best lives as recycled playground turf and rubber mulch.
Violet Rhoades technically started attending UBB cleanups before she was born. Her parents, Ben and Rachel, have been regulars at our Philly cleanups for years and continued to lend a hand when Rachel was expecting. Violet is now a cleanup veteran (at just five years old) and can often be seen scurrying off ahead of everyone in search of new ways to help (see impossibly adorable photo above).
Mother Nature hasn’t always sent the sunshine at all of our cleanups, but it’s never dampened our spirits. The most memorable: the torrential downpour at the Cooper River, NJ cleanup two years ago. Despite the weather, more than 120 of you showed up, poncho-clad and ready to rock (check the Facebook album for some epic mud pics). Even more inspiring, our poundage totals clocked in at more than 5 tons of trash in just a few hours!
It was cashed, of course, but still one for the books. It’s one of countless strange and unusual items we’ve stumbled upon over the years that have made us wonder, “Who on earth would throw this away?” Found objects that left us most in disbelief include: a metal detector, ‘90s cell phone, a Star Wars lunchbox, and countless J.Lo and Vanilla Ice CDs.
Our 2016 Kittanning cleanup was filled with unforgettable moments, partly because of the massive landfill and partly because of the unpredictable weather. After hours of stacking tires in a semi-truck, we were met with an intense snow storm. Of course, this didn’t stop our fearless Head of Cleanups and tough-as-nails volunteers. We built a fire, warmed up, and got right back to it, exceeding our original poundage goal by 300%.
Want to help us make even more happy memories out in the field (and see if you can top our weirdest trash finds)? Check our cleanups calendar to join our next adventure.