Decatur family begins clean up initiative

DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - One Decatur family was tired of seeing trash in the water and along walking trails when they would walk along the Sangamon River, so instead of complaining, they were proactive on their own.

Rabbit Thomas says, "When you come down by the water ways and you see the fishing trash and the food trash that's left, you start thinking well 'I can complain and tell the city and nothing can be done, or I can just suck it up and take responsibility and go clean it up.'" After seeing the issue grow worse, the Thomas family decided to start taking matters into their own hands and cleaning the trails and waterways one piece of trash at a time.

They say they can fill six trash bags full in a matter of 30 minutes some days. They typically collect food trash, fishing trash like lines and hooks, and occasionally they find hidden treasure like medicine bottles from the 1800s that they collect at home.

Rabbit believes it is the community's responsibility to take care of the trash. "If we partake in playing on the water, swimming in the water, and fishing in the water, we should take the responsibility to help keep it clean," she says. "We all drink the water and to come out here and find the trash in the water is upsetting."

The family finds fun in "being part of the solution, not the pollution," their tag-line, however, they also use it as a learning experience for their son, Malachi who is homeschooled. Rabbit says it gives him the opportunity to learn about wildlife and waterways.

Malachi says he loves coming out and being proactive saying, "It's really fun because I enjoy helping to clean up the world. I like it being clean, I like it nice, I don't like it being dirty."

The Thomas family decided they wanted to share their fun activity with the community a few months ago, so they started the Sangamon River Clean Up Facebook page. They involve the community and make picking up trash fun by adding garbage BINGO and scavenger hunts. However, Rabbit says as of now, there has not been as much community effort to help, but she hopes more people will start helping.

After hearing the Thomas family's story and their drive to make the community clean, WAND wanted to recognize them for all of their hard work, so they received this week's Spirit of Central Illinois Award.