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Cleaning up on Earth Day
Hundreds turn out for annual celebration
Earth Day main CROP
Maggie Stenner, 5, bends down to "reel" in her catch of metal trash while her sister Ava, 3, "casts" her magnet and their brother Isaac, 2, in the green T-shirt, intently studies the scene during Liberty County's Ninth Annual Earth Day celebration on Wednesday at the YMCA soccer fields in Hinesville. - photo by Randy C.Murray

Hundreds of school-age children brought their parents with them to the YMCA soccer fields Wednesday for Liberty County’s Ninth Annual Earth Day celebration.

Keep Liberty Beautiful Executive Director Sara Swida said this year’s event included at least 15 new activities that help teach children about the environment and their role in keeping it clean.

“We’re really excited about all the support we get with businesses and organizations within the community who help us host this event,” she said. “Last year, we had about 65 activities. This year, we have pretty close to 80. …

“The Earth is our home,” Swida continued. “If we’re not taking care of it, if we don’t know how to take care of it — that’s a serious situation. All of us should be concerned about whether we’re creating too much trash, whether we’re not recycling and whether we’re not conserving water and energy.”

Swida admits that as much as she looks forward to each year’s celebration and enjoys watching the children learn while having fun, she and her staff of volunteers are extremely tired by the end of the day. It’s a rewarding effort, however, for the kids and the community, she said. She anticipated seeing 1,100-1,200 people at this year’s event.

Rows of tents and tables lined the outside perimeter and interior of the two soccer fields with each table manned by local businesses, local and state agencies and civic organizations. As local band Exit 76 picked out some blues, Lewis Frasier Middle School student Lashauna Roberts was painting a tree on a T-shirt at a booth run by Guardians in Action.

“We’re a nonprofit organization here in Hinesville,” said Courtney Davis. “We do a lot of different things in the community. We have scholarships for (high school) graduates, we hold food drives and we help Keep Liberty Beautiful with cleanups and Earth Day.”

Nearby, Kelly Hill and Stephanie Nagid with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources invited kids to play “Marine Debris from Land to Sea.” With a salt-marsh overlay as a backdrop, the game consisted of pictures of dozens of common household items. Under a flap next to the picture was information explaining how long it takes that item to deteriorate once it gets into the ocean.

“This is our Marine Debris game,” Hill said. “It demonstrates how long it takes for different materials to break down when they’re thrown in the ocean. … We try to encourage people to make sure garbage goes in the trash and recycle everything they can. If it’s on the land, it’ll go into the ditches and end up in the ocean.”

Many of the games were more enticing to younger children, like the Garden Hopscotch game run by Keep Liberty Beautiful’s Ciara Goodmanson. Saphira Brown, 3, was coached by her dad, Richard Brown, to hop onto each of the colorful pads as Goodmanson talked about encouraging children to learn facts about flower and vegetable gardens.

On the opposite side of the field the Stenner children — Maggie, 5; Ava, 3; and Isaac, 2 —attempted to pick up metal objects from a simulated pool of water using fishing poles equipped with magnets instead of hooks. A field away, youngsters took turns crawling in large plastic tubes to gather empty water bottles and cardboard boxes. Hinesville Inspection Department personnel ran the game, called “Journey through a Storm Drain.”

Code Enforcement Officers Becky Spears and Amanda Gardner, along with GIS Coordinator Brent Martin, led children through the hands-on activity.

“Our game is a depiction of whatever trash goes into the storm drains eventually makes its way into our rivers and streams, then our oceans,” Spears said. “We have an activity where the children go through the tube to teach them what happens inside the storm drain.

While smaller children participated in many learning games, older children played a game of Earth ball with a giant balloon of planet Earth. Others grabbed an edge of a canopy material, quickly lifting it up high and allowing it to fill with air as it came back down.

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