Sawyer Miller hopes to make a difference

Monday, May 4, 2015
PHOTO BY STEVE WEISMAN Sawyer Miller displays his beach cleanup box.

You know, over 33 years of teaching and coaching, it was amazing to me how sincere youngsters could be about solving problems and issues around them. It's been 12 years since I retired, but last Saturday in April I listened to a young third grader share his vision to help solve a problem right here in the lakes region.

I was at the Okoboji Protective Association's board meeting, and I noticed this young man sitting patiently (by his dad I found out later), waiting for his chance to talk to the board. I looked at the agenda and saw the name Sawyer Miller and beside it his purpose for being at the meeting: beach cleanup box.

When it became his turn, Sawyer Miller, a third grader at Okoboji Elementary School, shared his story and the help he was looking for from the OPA board.

Sawyer, you see, is part of the Talented and Gifted program at his school, and his teacher, Mrs. Sackett, was working with each of her students on solving a real world problem. Sawyer's huge general problem was pollution, and he had narrowed it down to pollution on our own beaches: specifically trash.

His solution to the problem was a beach clean up station that he had brought with him. In explaining the project, Sawyer noted that for the past several months, twice weekly, he had worked on the project that he would place at the beach by the bridge between East and West Okoboji. He even called a local lumberyard, and they donated scrap lumber for the project.

Inside the box, Sawyer had built a top compartment for placing plastic gloves, while the larger compartment was built for biodegradable trash bags...and that's why Sawyer was there.

After Sawyer explained the box and how it would work, a board member asked the question, "Sawyer, what would you like from the board?"

Sawyer paused and then responded with a smile, "I am asking you to provide the money for the gloves and bags."

"How much money do you need?" He noted that he was hoping for $210 to cover the cost of the gloves and bags for three beach clean up stations.

A board member responded, "How about $300?" This was followed by "What would you do if you had any money left over?"

"Build another box," Sawyer answered. And that was that. The board granted Sawyer $300.


Later I had the chance to talk to Sawyer and learn more about this project. "I have the one made, but now I need to talk to Mr. Marx, the high school shop teacher, to see if he will help with the next box."

Sawyer's inspiration for the clean up station came from a California-based organization called All One Ocean that Mrs. Sackett had helped him find. "I want to put the second one by the beach in Arnolds Park."

Prior to Saturday's meeting, Sawyer had already gone before the city council to get the approval to place the clean up stations on the public beaches.

Why go to the Okoboji Protective Association? "Mr. Sackett had heard about my project and told me that his board would be interested in having me make a presentation to them," Sawyer said.

We can all do our part

Sawyer's belief in his project and that this can make a difference should be an inspiration to all of us. It's an example that each of us can make a difference in the way we take care of our environment.

Thanks, Sawyer, for reminding us all that we owe it to ourselves and all of those around us to step up to the plate. After all, it's the only environment that we will ever get!

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