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Eric's Heroes: A man making a difference, one piece of garbage at a time

Eric's Heroes: One man making a difference, one piece of garbage at a time

Looking out into the world, we all see things we don't like. Things we'd like to change. Things we'd like to fix.

Tom Burkley is like that.

But there is a difference.

It's a grey, rainy day in Kent, and with one pant leg rolled up, he's ready to get busy.

He pumps up his tires and loads up a garbage can.

"I don't particularly find this 'wow' fascinating, but at the same time I do feel like it's important," Tom says.

He climbs on board his converted pedicab and ventures out into the world to make it a better place, one scrap or discarded trash at a time.

"It's really frustration sometimes when you see all this little. It's just...it's nice to see it clean, but it frustrates me to see all the litter bugs," Tom says.

There's a big parking lot by the Showare Center. Tom takes a "before" picture and gets to work.

Piece after piece of foil...and plastic, pizza boxes, cups, cans...bits of discarded indistinguishable muck. You name it.

"Look, we've only been here 10 minutes and we already have a bin."

Tom takes the time to pick up other people's discarded filth.

It's dirty work and he doesn't get paid a dime.

He does it on his own.

"This is going to sound silly, but in a way to me, it kind of feels like art. I read about how sculptors remove stone from the sculpture. I remove the trash and what's left looks good," Tom says.

Then he dumps a bag, takes an "after" picture of his handiwork and he's off.

A couple of days later the sun is out and so is Tom.

Making his rounds, patrolling the little city he loves.

"You wouldn't think there was a lot, then you start looking close, and there is a lot."

He's just one guy pushing back against what seems to be an irresistible wave of indifference. And people are noticing.

"I kind of have...there's a motto that I live by, and it's a quote from Ghandi that says, 'What you do may seem insignificant, but it's most important that you do it.' So that just fits in perfectly with what I'm doing because picking up a piece of litter, not that big of a deal. But picking up a thousand pieces of litter in a day, all the sudden you're making a difference. So that's kind of what I live by."

Looking out into the world, we all see things we don't like. Things we'd like to change. Things we'd like to fix.

Tom Burkley is like that.

But there is a difference, Tom rolls up his pant leg and gets to work.

It can't be just one person, the job is too big.

So Tom reached out on Facebook and one Saturday morning, when they could have done almost anything else, admirers started showing up to let Tom know he's not alone.

They were a tiny army now. There were 12 instead of one.

Maybe the next time there will be 20 and then 40.

Maybe, when all is said and done, Tom really will change the world.

But for now, he's busy changing Kent.

One cigarette butt, one plastic wrapper and one guy pushing back against a wave of indifference...at a time.

Editor's Note: "Eric's Heroes" is a weekly series airing every Wednesday on KOMO News in the 6 p.m. newscast. If you have a good story about a good person doing good things for the right reasons, share it with Eric by sending an email to heroes@komonews.com.


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