They call themselves the Polson Avengers.
But 25-year-old Kai Eli, who spearheads the fledgling non-profit group, says they’re not superheroes — just a group of concerned Vernon citizens who want to volunteer their time cleaning up a beloved local gathering spot.
“We just want to make a safer, cleaner place for families and kids to play,” he told The Morning Star Tuesday afternoon.
Since launching the group last week, Eli said he’s spent a few hours at Polson Park everyday searching for stray needles and drug paraphernalia to safely dispose of. While he’s on the hunt, Eli added, he wears latex gloves to protect his hands. He also carries a safe disposal container.
“I find needles every time I come here so I thought I should be safe,” he explained. Eli said he intends to provide gloves and disposal containers for other volunteers as well.
So far, he said, over the course of three days, he has found three used orange-tipped needles and one “crack pipe.”
“They’re right near where kids are playing,” he said.
“I don’t blame them (kids) for not wanting to walk around.”
In fact, Eli said the effort was inspired by an 11-year-old child, who like himself, is saddened by the notion of Vernon’s jewel as a popular spot to shoot up.
“I got off work and came home and was scrolling through my Facebook Newsfeed one night and I came across this Letter to the Editor in The Morning Star. It was written by this kid who said she was scared to play in the park. That just really made me sad, and kind of angry, that people would do something like that in a place where kids play. It’s upsetting, you know. It really bothers me.”
The goal of the Polson Avengers, he added, is to bring that feeling of safety he experienced as a kid playing in the park, back.
“I learned to skateboard in this park. I had birthdays…. I spent so many hours of my childhood here — this makes me really sad to see.”
In addition to the clean-up efforts, Eli said he envisions the Avengers acting as “big buddies” — a volunteer who has completed a Criminal Reference Check, in the park people or children can safely approach for help if they spot something dangerous.
He said Big Buddies will be easy to spot because they will be wearing “high vis” shirts with their favourite superhero’s symbol emblazoned on the front. The cost of the shirts, he added, is covered by a sponsor he has already found.
Of his plan, Eli said the Avengers, much like the popular Marvel characters, aren’t intended to be vigilantes. They just want to help.
“I’ll personally try my best to be here every day, I’ve got the time,” he said, encouraging anyone who wants to join the efforts to follow the Polson Avengers on Facebook.
“You guys find time. One day out of the week is good. One day out of your life means a lot to me.”
He also plans to contact the City of Vernon about the idea of installing sharps boxes in the park near garbage cans.