‘Spring cleaning:’ 11-year old picks up litter in Tahoe amid snowmelt
As much as 11-year-old Kyle Adams enjoys picking up trash along Tahoe’s west shore, he has a message for the visitors and locals alike who shirk their environmental responsibility to the Sierra.
“Stop littering in Tahoe because it’s bad for the environment,” Kyle said.
Adams said he is unsure of how much trash he has collected in his lifetime, but has already correctly disposed of several big bags this spring.
He doesn’t remember how or why he began to pick up litter, but said he generally prefers for his neighborhood and affiliated trails to look “good and not trashy.”
According to Kyle’s mother, Tania Adams, the North Tahoe Middle School fifth grader began picking up his neighborhood’s litter at 4 years old — around the same time he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March 2014.
“It was a fast growing cancer,” Tania Adams said, adding that the doctors treating her son were either unable or chose not to share what stage of cancer Kyle was in. “We were told he only had a few more days to live if we didn’t get him in.”
After the diagnosis, Kyle was airlifted out of Tahoe to spend more than three weeks in the intensive care unit at UC Davis. Three years of chemotherapy treatment followed, with five treatments a week for the first 18 months.
“I was really a mess then,” Tania Adams said, explaining how grateful she was for the support of her family and the larger but still tight knit Tahoe community at the time. She recalled a benefit hosted by her son’s preschool in tandem with Hacienda del Lago, a Mexican restaurant in North Lake Tahoe, to help pay for the constantly increasing cost of Kyle’s medical expenses.
Tania Adams, who works as a caretaker in the North Lake region, said the generosity, compassion and investment between her family and Tahoe is mutual.
Tania said Rich Adams, Kyle’s father, works as a forester for California State Parks. The family, complete with 14-year-old Dane and 9-year old Audrey, rides at Homewood Mountain Resort in the winters.
“We always talk about cleaning up,” Tania Adams said. “We live in the mountains and like to keep our home clean, of course.”
Tania Adams said she observed a marked increase in pollution on the west shore, and attributes the additional litter to the pandemic’s influx of visitors and brazen bears.
“There never used to be this many people and people not securing their trash properly,” Tania Adams said, attributing the increased number of regional bear sightings to their easy access to food waste. “I don’t remember seeing bears as a child like I do now.”
Ed Miller, family friend and the board president for the Meek’s Bay Fire Protection District for 37 years, said he is particularly irked by pollution in the form of disposed masks, individual floss picks and bagged dog droppings.
Miller, who officiated Tania Adams’ wedding, said he is moved by Kyle’s personal response to a communal need.
“I’m so impressed by this little guy who selflessly goes out and does this,” Miller said. “He’s a great kid, a cancer survivor who shows a level of responsibility not often seen in his age group.”
Kyle’s affinity for picking up litter and the beautifying effect it has on their family’s community is just one of many reasons Tania is proud of her son, whose recovery process required more than just physical recuperation.
“He’s a strong boy,” Tania Adams said. “He’s been through a lot and came a long way. It took a long time to build his self-confidence.”
Tania Adams said that on July 26 Kyle will celebrate the five-year anniversary since his last cancer treatment.
Longtime family friend Miller said he appreciates how Tania and Rich Adams instilled values that tout communal health and wellness in their children by setting an example.
“Not only does she take care of her kids and husband, but she takes care of mom and dad,” Miller said. “Tania and Rich teach with their actions.”
Tania Adams said she is unsure exactly what her son is thinking when he inevitably suggests the pair pick up litter for fun each spring, but she is grateful.
“It’s inspiring in many ways to see a kid out there with a blue bag and a little grabber,” Tania Adams said, adding “He’s out there in the bushes any time he wants to pick up trash.”
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union, a sister publication of the Sun
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