Four hundred and sixteen tires, 40 fenders, three junked car bodies and a couple of tons of scrap metal were just a few of the items hauled away last weekend when 40 teenagers gave Northern Virginia's countryside a thorough spring cleaning.
The cleanup took place during a trash-a-thon sponsored by the NO-VA chapter of Adventure Unlimited, a youth organization. Each young person who participated was sponsored by donors who pledged to pay between 25 cents and a dollar for every hundred pounds of trash gathered.
Ronald Anderson, co-leader of the group, estimated the youths earned "far better" than the $1,200 they netted in another trash-a-thon two years ago. The exact amount will be determined in about two weeks after all the donations are in, Anderson said.
Part of the proceeds willbe used to send local children to a summer camp in the Rocky Mountains. A third of the profits will be sent to the organization's national headquarters, and the rest will go into the local group's treasury for monthly expenses and activities.
Adventure Unlimited, an international organization run by Christian Scientists, also conducted trash-a-thons in Canada, South Africa, England and other parts of the United States last weekend, said Beverly Anderson, co-leader of the local club.
She said the organization chose this type of fundraiser because "we felt it was doing more" than other "thons." When the group cleared debris from an area, there was a visible improvement, she said.
Appoximately 15 tons of junk were collected from littered areas in Alexandria, Fairfax, Vienna, Merrifield and Mount Vernon. Besides the usual glass and paper litter, workers found old washing machines, water heaters, refrigerators and car parts around the countryside.
Work crews got up as early as 6 a.m. Saturday to get their collections to the sanitary landfills and public incinerator before closing time. The day was warm and sunny -- perfect for lazy springtime activities -- but no one voiced any regrets about the 12 hours they spent collecting trash.
"It was fun. We had tire races - it wasn't just dreary labor," said Alicia Schweitzer, 16, co-president of Adventure Unlimited.
Joey Correa, 15, of Alexandria, said that by the end of the day he was "dirty and tired. But I felt like we had done something good."
Appreciate merchants and neighbors near the sites that were cleaned made donations and pledges while the youths worked. One resident in particular, Bart Cox, said he was "very grateful" for the hard-working youths.
A few weeks ago Cox, a Ford Washington, Md., resident, discovered that people had been dumping tons of trash on a piece of his farm property that could not be seen from the road. After making several unsuccessful phone calls to authorities about clearing away the tons of debris, he heard of the upcoming trash-a-thon.
"They made a considerable dent in it," he said. "In an hour and a half, they carted away several tons. The county wouldn't do anything about it without cost to me. These children came to the rescue."
Although the project generally ran smoothly, there was one problem. "We had plenty of trash, but not enough trucks to take it away," said Kenny Laughlin, 15, of Fairfax. Because the project took place at the end of the month when many people move to new homes, most of the trailers in the area were rented. But the group managed to round up two trucks, three trailers and a few cars with lots of trunk space.
Laughlin admitted that the trash-a-thon was hard work, "but we felt kind of glad. Fifteen tons (the amount of trash collected) is a lot," he said.
"We had a really good turnout," said Correa. "I learned what people can do working together."