When Forsyth County resident Olivia Edge turned 14 last month, she could have asked for anything – money, new clothes or something else you’d expect from a young teen.
But Edge was excited for a different type of gift, one that would allow her to clean up and preserve her local community, one can or cigarette butt at a time.
"I was excited to get the kit because I just wanted to pick up trash," Edge said on Wednesday, July 31, holding up a cleanup kit, a large reusable heavy-mesh bag, cut-proof gloves and a trash-picker-upper, sold by the ecological conservation company 4ocean.
Leading up to her birthday on July 16, Edge said that she kept seeing 4ocean advertise online and after doing a little research on the company, she knew she could use the 4ocean cleanup kit to help and beautify the environment in her own backyard.
"I’ve always loved nature, and it makes me very sad when I see a lot of litter,” Edge said. “It seems like not a lot of people, at least in our area, are picking up the trash around here, so I thought I was old enough to start doing it."
After unwrapping the kit, Edge immediately went to work cleaning up the area around Caney Creek Preserve and Caney Road. Since then, she’s been back about once a week with her dad to walk a mile stretch of the road and pick up the trash which piles up there.
Edge’s parents, Megaera and Gary, say that they were not at all surprised at their daughter’s birthday wish and new hobby. She’s a straight-A student and runs cross country at Piney Grove Middle School, they said, who used to pick up trash around her school and on the beach during family vacations.
Megaera Edge said her daughter was even bullied by students at school for her habit of cleaning up around the campus, but didn’t let that stop her from doing what she believes in.
"I was really proud of her, because she's just one person making a difference,” Megaera Edge said. “If she can even get one or two other people to see what she’s doing and decide that they too want to make a difference, then what a great thing, because this is the next generation."
Olivia Edge says that if she ever runs out of trash to pick up in the Caney Creek Park area, she’ll move on to cleaning up another park or another roadway, but until then she has a message and a challenge for other residents in Forsyth County.
"One person can't change the world, but you can change the world for one person or one environment," Edge said. "If you have time to play video games and watch TV, you have time to pick up trash around your house.”