Dollar Hunt

Family outings are all about fun -- and recycling rewards

Donna Gray, For Neighbours

Published:Thursday, May 03, 2007

Almost every weekend, you'll find the McKay family heading out to local and area parks to take in the sights and sounds while exploring the beauty of nature.

They also take the time to haul out several bags of plastic bottles, aluminium cans and glass. An average of a cubic metre each week, to be exact. It's all part of the family's mantra to spend quality time together while being responsible citizens.

"This idea started while we were playing at the playground with our son Kevin," says Monica McKay. "We found many pieces of broken glass and started picking them up. Kevin told the kids not to play so they don't hurt their feet."

Kevin McKay, 4, holds up a 10-cent treasure he discovered while exploring Nose Hill Park with his father Karmin.

Ted Jacob, Calgary Herald

Webmaster's note: 

Class of 76 members will note with interest that Karmin's 4-year old son is shown for all to see hoisting a 'Bud' can!  Perhaps this particular can came out of Dad's backpack....

Kevin's father, Karmin, takes precautions when picking up garbage. He only allows Kevin to pick up safe and clean bottles and cans, while he takes over the more dangerous items such as broken glass and non-recyclable products. Gloves and hand soap are always at the ready to ensure health and safety.

After discovering that his son showed interest in continuing, Karmin took the initiative one step further and added a bit of fun and reward to the process.

"We make it an adventure," he says. "We call it the dollar hunt because when we're finished collecting, we take the items to the local recycling centre. In the last month alone, we've collected $200, and $450 since January. It all goes to Kevin's bank account."

McKay says he's also found several items strewn about, such as wallets, clothing and shoes. He believes teenagers and adults are the major

culprits, and he's even caught several littering while a garbage can is nearby.

Kevin, 4, says littering makes him unhappy, and although his feet often get a little tired, he sees the benefits in the end.

"I like to do that," he says. "I tell the kids to be careful because if they step on some glass, they might get hurt. Then I put the money in my piggy bank."

Bonnie Castle-Dixon, executive director of Friends of Fish Creek, is excited to hear of the McKays' initiative to keep Calgary cleaner. As the organizer of the annual Fish Creek Bow River cleanup in the city, she can attest to the wide range of junk that shows up in and along the water.

"Last year, I found a TV along the bank of the river just behind Shawnee Gate," she says. "You have to wonder why someone would dump their household garbage like that."

This year's river cleanup takes place Saturday, May 5 (rain day is May 12), beginning at 10 a.m. Three locations have been chosen, including the Environmental Learning Centre near Shannon Terrace (west end); Glenfield Picnic area, just off Bannister Road; and the Bow Valley Ranch Visitors Centre at the east end of the park.

Kids and adults are invited to volunteer to pick up garbage and are provided with bags.

Following the event, recognition gifts are given for unusual items found, as well as the most garbage collected by an individual. A barbecue is also a hit with the kids at the end of the day.

"Many kids will bring a friend and their parents, and they feel good about it," she says. "Getting a free hamburger at the end is amazing for them, too. It's something they aren't expecting. They feel good about cleaning up and being rewarded for their efforts."

Dave Breckon, director of parks for the city, says each summer, 700 seasonal employees are hired to pick up garbage in city parks.

"The use in our parks has intensified, so we spend a big part of our time picking up litter," he says. "We also have a large volunteer core we rely on. Picking up garbage promotes stewardship, but there is a social aspect to it, which makes people feel good."

For more information on the Friends of Fish Creek Cleanup, visit or call 238-3841. For details about volunteering with the City of Calgary parks department, call 311 or visit