A group of children in Papillion are doing more than just picking up after themselves. They’re picking up after everybody else.
The Litter Gitters is a group of about 20 children, mostly students from Tara Heights Elementary School, ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade. They venture out several times throughout the year, collecting trash along various routes in the city.
Their efforts were noticed by the Tobacco Education Advocacy of the Midlands, who honored the Litter Gitters as their Advocate of the Year for the work they do picking up cigarette butts and other tobacco products thrown into the environment.
“We love seeing kids get involved and we want to spotlight them when they’re doing great things,” said Autumn Burns, Sarpy County coordinator for TEAM. Burns said the Litter Gitters are getting an early education on the damage tobacco can do to the environment. “It’s important for them to realize how much tobacco trash ends up on the ground,” she said. “We want to teach them early that cigarette butts should not end up on the ground. It’s sad to see little kids picking up what adults shouldn’t throw on the ground.”
Jennelle Simon’s children began their trash-collecting brigade several years ago when they were going to daycare with her mother, Maureen Calabro. “She would take them to the park or other places and they would pick up trash along the way,” Simon said.
A couple of years ago, Simon’s children formed a group with several others in the neighborhood and the Litter Gitters were born. They venture out once every couple of months, collecting trash along the way to various destinations. They do much of their collecting along Cornhusker Road and into the downtown area.
Simon said it’s not always pretty what they see along the way. “It’s disgusting,” she said. “These aren’t candy bar wrappers, these are beer cans, cigarette butts and chew cans. What’s crazy is that we’ll pick up one day and a few days later, there’s trash again.
“It is good for the kids to see what’s happening.”
The Litter Gitters marched in the Papillion Days Parade in June, equipped with matching T-shirts courtesy of TEAM. They even picked up trash along the parade route. Simon said the group was excited about their award from TEAM.
“They loved the plaque,” she said. “I think it was neat for them to be recognized and it made them feel important.”
Simon believes it is important for children to be involved in their community. “I hate it when kids sit around and just stare at a screen,” she said. “They don’t put up a fight about going out and picking up trash. They enjoy being with their friends and I know us moms get a good feeling when we see the kids walking around picking up the neighborhood.”