By the end of the day, the town of Altona will sparkle thanks to the grades 4-6 students at Ecole West Park School taking part in the 34th annual spring clean-a-thon.

The clean-up was originally scheduled for last week Thursday, but the rain had other ideas and so it was pushed back a week.

Derek Sawatzky, principal at West Park, says this annual fundraiser is operated in partnership with Blue Sky Opportunities, an organization that supports adults with intellectual disabilities in the community. 

He hasn't forgotten what it's like to walk around town with a garbage bag slung over his shoulder, picking every type of debris from tree lines, ditches and parks. 

"I did this when I was in grade four, five and six. I did those and I've been working here since 2009 so I've been doing all of them since then. Obviously, there was a bit of a hiccup there in 2020, but beyond that, we've been going ever since."

Students will be bussed around town to starting sites, working their way back along the routes planned for them said Sawatzky.

"We come out onto the boulevards and clean up whatever has been left around from the winter. We go out in groups of 10-12 students with an adult supervisor, picking up whatever we find. Obviously, if there's anything that's a little bit unsafe or considering that we get the adults involved."

The value of the clean-a-thon is not lost on students.

"I think it's important because you need a clean town. It's nice when it's clean and there's not much garbage around," says Marley, a grade-six student at West Park.

Her fellow grade sixer, Namir, is also anticipating "Helping Blue Sky and clean Altona."

They've also discovered that not all garbage is necessarily garbage.

"Last year we found a free slushy card for Co-op," said Marley.

In years past, students would ride around town in the back of pick-ups. Town police put an end that practice to ensure student safety.

Ecole West Park School Principal Derek Sawatzky with Grade 6 students Namir and Marley.Ecole West Park School Principal Derek Sawatzky with Grade 6 students Namir and Marley.

Proceeds from the event benefit the non-profit organization financially and the community visually.

"We go around fundraising, canvassing for money for the kids to be sponsored to help out and clean around the town. Students raise ‘X’ number of dollars. Between this bracket they earn chamber bucks for spending anywhere here in town that accepts chamber bucks. If you earn more you move up to better rewards, starting at $5. The biggest financial prize is $150."

Sawatzky says in some families, parents exchange the chamber bucks for cash, so the children have money to spend.

"Any way that we can help incentivize kids to want to go out and raise money for an important organization. [Blue Sky] does a lot of important projects. They're renovating some of their facilities this year using proceeds from this fundraiser. There's also a long-standing tradition of having a tablet as the main prize. The student who earns the most or the person who collects the most pledges both receive a tablet as a reward. I think in my day we got a shiny button."

Marley predicts they'll collect over 100 of garbage, while Namir sees them passing the 200 mark.  

Once the work is done, students will enjoy a hot dog, drink and ice-cream treat.

With files from Zack Driedger