Wacoans help clean the Brazos on MLK Day

Photo credit: Jason Pedreros

A day off from classes in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not stop Baylor’s football team and other Waco residents from giving back through the MLK Day of Service: Brazos River Cleanup. Keep Waco Beautiful, a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping Waco clean and healthy, teamed up with Waco Paddle Company along the banks of the Brazos River in an effort to clean up waste polluting the waters.

The executive director of Keep Waco Beautiful, Ashley Millerd, explained why Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than just a day off of work and school. It’s also a day dedicated to service.

“MLK Day of Service is kind of our way of giving back, the way that Martin Luther King Jr. gave back to us,” Millerd said.

Although this was the annual event’s eighth year, Millerd was surprised by the large number of volunteers who were using their day off to help the community in the cold weather.

“We’ve had many people sign up, and we have many more people here that didn’t sign up. It’s usually the other way around,” Millerd said.

Millerd explained that the general turnout probably increased for this event because Keep Waco Beautiful’s most recent clean up event in October had been cancelled due to weather.

“Generally, we only have about 60 to 70 people that show up. This year, whenever I opened the sign up link this morning, we had over 260 people,” Millerd said.

Miami sophomore Tyquan Thornton attended the clean up event with other members of the Baylor football team.

“Everybody working together just picking up trash, that’s a good thing right there,” Thornton said.

Many volunteers who arrived early were given the option to use a kayak or canoe in order to reach waste that had drifted towards the center of the river. Some of the waste found by students in the river were basketballs and fishing rods. Two of the students, while reaching for trash floating in the river, flipped over their kayak and fell until the cold Brazos River.

“Some of us are walking on either side of the river and some of the kayaks flipped over,” Thornton said.

Several of the volunteers were Waco families, that planned their day around the Brazos River Clean Up and the 21st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace March and Observance earlier that morning.

“It’s fun to play outside now. I’m a Waco native and you know, back in my day when I was in high school, you didn’t go into the river. It was disgusting and you wouldn’t even go near it,” Millerd said.