On 17 Oct 2021, the Don’t Mess with the Don organization (DMWTD) , in partnership with 53 division officers, hosted a fall cleanup behind the buildings in Thorncliffe Park. DMWTD was joined by residents of Thorncliffe Park, as well as The Neighbourhood Organization, Thorncliffe Park Urban Farmers, Toronto Netralya Lions Club, Earthheadz, and Toronto Nature Stewards.  Greenwin Property Management provided free food and refreshments to all the volunteers.

On the day of the event, volunteers gathered behind the parking lot of 75 Thorncliffe Park Drive. They helped clean the area behind the apartment buildings leading into the Don Valley from 9 am to 12pm. Coffee and snacks were served while everyone got to work. In total, there were around 220 volunteers, and 163 bags were filled with trash—about 5 200 lbs of garbage was piled up. “A good cleanup results in a eco-friendly environment,” said Leah Naidu, a Grade 9 student at MGCI. The cold and windy weather didn’t stop this event from being a great success. “A huge thank you to all our hard working volunteers, partners and sponsors!” the DMWTD Organization concluded at the event.

DMWTD team handing out refreshments to volunteers

DMWTD, fully run by volunteers, was founded in April 2018 by five members. They are currently at eight members. Since their founding, they have removed over 170 000 pieces of garbage from the Don Valley. They have created a large stewardship site dedicated to removing invasive species and planting important native species from the valley. 

Over the past years, they’ve built strong relationships with similar organizations, advocated politicians for increased funding, and involved businesses and communities in their goal. In June 2021, they hit a milestone when they became an official charity. The founders of DMWTD have stated that “DMWTD believes in inspiring and unlocking the passion people possess for change.” Their mission, as outlined on their website, is to “bind a volunteer’s belief in environmental change and the great satisfaction that comes with seeing that difference realized.”

DMWTD is known for the success of its many events, such as the Earth Week trash challenge and their trail cleanups. “Great organization doing some great work bringing together volunteers to keep our local trails clean!” said Dismount Bike Shop. Their achievements have been recognized not only by the City of Toronto, but also the Government of Canada. DMWTD has formed partnerships with multiple businesses, schools, and community groups. They have built an extremely successful community, and plan to continue sustaining it. 

The 5 founding members of this initiative are Lawrence Warriner, Irene Vandertop, Sean Symea, John Scott, and Floyd Ruskin. 

Warriner’s life has been filled with bike rides and wandering off in the Don Valley. He believes in small acts of goodness and helping each other when needed; these acts led him to find a community with DMWTD.  

Vandertop has been advocating and taking action for the preservation of natural spaces, such as local ravines, ever since she moved to Toronto. She works in digital media and has worked on numerous projects regarding climate change. 

In his early childhood, Symea always loved Toronto’s trails, biking, running, hiking, and exploring. He is a self-proclaimed naturalist who adores witnessing changes in the woods. Capturing these moments has always brought him joy, and he insists on keeping these spaces cared for. 

Currently, Scott is the CEO of Our Human Company, a wellness consulting and coaching business. He loves the outdoors and cleaning up in natural spaces. 

Ruskin has been exploring the area of the Don, from Lake Ontario to Steeles, for 30 years. In the past, he has worked with the TDSB and the City of Toronto, as well as organizations like Lost Rivers, Todmorden Historical Site, Toronto Field Naturalists, and Evergreen. He strongly believes in volunteering and community responsibility. Floyd continues to advocate with municipal, provincial, and federal governments regarding local funding. 

Students and community members can get involved with the  Don’t Mess with the Don by volunteering and/or donating to the organization. 

Learn more about Don’t Mess with the Don at their website, https://www.dontmesswiththedon.ca.