Wielding a plastic “grabber” tool to pick up a bag full of trash from the playground and parking lot areas of Fichtner-Mainwaring Park, 5-year-old Cameron Gratta would have been just as happy on Tuesday afternoon if he had been playing soccer or climbing some monkey bars.
A huge fan of picking up trash since the ripe old age of 3, the Jefferson Elementary kindergartner admitted he is particularly fond of “helping the Earth.”
The boy and his dad, John Gratta, spent an hour of their day picking up cigarette butts, unearthing plastic bottle caps from the volleyball court sand and collecting dirty napkins and food wrappers.
At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19, he’s hoping for help from other kids — and their parents — when he tackles one of the city’s biggest and busiest parks.
Thus far he has a half-dozen RSVPs and about a dozen “maybes” via social media for a group effort to clean up East Medford’s Bear Creek Park.
Cameron has done trash cleanup at almost all the city’s parks over the past two years.
“He just really loved doing it and it’s something we could do together,” John Gratta said.
“He didn’t like that people threw their garbage on the ground. It was enough that a 3-year-old noticed it. It made him sad.”
On Tuesday, Cameron was a boy of few words, busy with the task at hand, fumbling a few times, to pick up a thin water bottle wrapper while shyly shrugging off questions.
Both Cameron and his dad marveled at finding one lonesome sock near basketball courts.
“Where do you think the other one went, Cameron?”
A shoulder shrug, followed by more trash pickup.
“I don’t know,” he finally offered.
With his bag nearly full, he plucked a final handful of plastic bottle camps from the dirt.
“I think mostly what we pick up is all the bottle caps,” said the 5-year-old. “And cigarette butts.”
John Gratta said the warmer weather had yielded more garbage at city parks, meaning more trash cleanup dates for the pair.
Both father and son are hopeful the upcoming event will see another park cleaned up as well as send a message to discourage littering.
The event is open to anyone willing to help — bring good walking shoes, some work gloves and plastic bags if you’ve got ’em, father and son said.
Bobbio’s Pizza will provide pizza following the cleanup.
“He’s done Bear Creek Park before but it’s so big. This park (Fichtner-Mainwaring), we can do almost the whole thing. Bear Creek, it’s hard to even put a dent,” said the father.
“It’s a good-size park and there’s a lot more garbage so I think we can use all the help we can get.”
Gratta marveled at his son’s tidiness.
“Your room is actually one of the cleanest in the house, huh, buddy? Your sisters don’t litter but they litter in their rooms.”
The 5-year-old snickered, then raced toward the tennis courts to collect some abandoned balls. Asking his dad to hold on to his loot — a treat for his cleanup efforts — Cameron went back to work, picking up another bottle cap, an empty food bag and a half-empty cup of blue liquid from a coffee stand.
“We pick up trash because we’re cleaning up the Earth,” he said.
“We pick up mostly hundreds of bottle caps and a bunch of other stuff. I don’t know why people throw stuff down. I think it just is because they don’t want to pick up their garbage.
“When they don’t pick it up,” he said, shaking his head, “it makes the Earth look so dirty.”
Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.