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'I want to cause a ripple effect': Woman starts group aimed at cleaning up Kentucky's lakes and rivers

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Sep 26, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — There is nature, and then there are forces of nature.

Whitney Lewis loves the former and is determined to be one of the latter.

“Growing up, I was in nature a lot,” says the Kentucky native and mother of two. “My dad passed away when I was 12, and he was the one that a lot of times took me out. So, I kind of lost touch with it until I was about 30, and then the race was on!”

What is the race? Whitney is determined to clean up Kentucky’s lakes and rivers one body at a time. It’s been a way to reconnect with her dad.

“Absolutely, yes. 100%. There are a lot of signs of him when I’m out there, so yeah,” Whitney recalls. “I’ve had the pleasure of coming face to face with an albino deer, a pregnant albino deer. I found out I was pregnant with Ellie a month later."

“I feel like if a past loved one could communicate, that’s the way they would do it.”

So Whitney started a group called “Sun KYst Sticks and Stones” – named after her favorite drink – to convince everyone to just do the little things to help out.

“I’m going out and I’m seeing all of these beautiful places – these waterfalls, these arches – and I thought, ‘It doesn’t cost me anything to go out here with my kids and show them these beautiful places. The least I can do while I’m there is give back a little bit.’ And so I started bringing grocery bags along and we pick up a bag or two.”

A bag or two has turned into thousands. As in nearly 5,000 in just the last six months. And now a new goal of 10,000 by year’s end.

“All I think about is trash and nature…and my girls, of course!”

I asked her, “Are you ever amazed at all the trash you find?”

“Mm…discouraged, maybe. And that is why I hop from place to place because if I stay in one place too long, it’s overwhelming. I want to cause a ripple effect.

“It’s a higher power that has called me to do it, and I’m honored to do it. I…I love it! I love walking away from an area that was trashed look pristine again.”