ADAMS -- A student and his mother have been rising with the sun over the past several weeks to dispose of litter at C.T. Plunkett's Wacky World playground in a cleanup effort started by the ambitious 8-year-old.
Tami Daley and her son Ethan's new routine involves visiting the playground, trashbags in hand, between 5 and 5:30 in the morning.
"He's just motivated," Tami said. "A few weeks ago he said, ‘Mom, I'm going to make you promise that you and I will come here every day.' I said OK."
Ethan, who's going to be in grade three next school year, said he had feared the playground could be in danger of getting torn down if littering continued there.
"I just saw the litter and started picking it up because it hurts the Earth," Ethan said. "When I'm at school and we're playing tag, if I see garbage, I say time-out and go pick it up."
At first, Ethan said his classmates wondered about his new habit.
"They thought it was weird," Ethan said.
But by last week, Ethan's peers were working alongside him. Ethan's goal, he said, was for every kid who used the playground to "pick up just one piece."
Ethan's resolve gained recent praise from Plunkett principal Kristen Gordon, who says Ethan "remotivated" her to encourage all students to care for the playground.
"What a great kid," Gordon said. "I see him out there at 5, 5:30 in the morning cleaning Wacky World. He's really taken this on."
Gordon credited Ethan with helping start a school-wide effort, adding, "I'm hoping to plan a ‘big clean-up day,' and he's going to get a leading role because he really started this on his own. We'll continue it into next year."
In the near future, Gordon would like to see Wacky World's "old and worn down," wood-and-steel structures exchanged for new plastic ones.
"The community uses it a great deal," Gordon said. The playground was built in 1994.
During their visits, Tami and Ethan safely do away with bottles, fast-food containers, plastic cups, empty cigarette packs and other discarded items. At Ethan's request, Tami recently sent out word to the Adams Police Department, who promised to look into the matter.
The issue has been raised at previous town government meetings as well. Former Selectman Jason Hnatonko, also a parent of young children, made comments at a meeting earlier this year about wanting the playground cleaned more often.
"He told me he's going to do it until people listen to him and something's done," Tami Daley said.
According to Ethan, who Tami says "was raised to be neat," his newfound passion is not just a passing phase.
"I'm going to keep coming until everyone stops littering."