Family turns heartbreak into action; collects nearly 500 lbs. of trash along NC coast


OUTER BANKS, N.C. (WAVY) — Friday is the first day of summer, and there is perfect beach weather in the forecast. But trash buried in the sand or floating in the water is enough to ruin your fun in the sun. There’s a group on a mission to protect our planet for a very special reason.

“There’s litter out there, go get it,” said Mike Munson. “Everyday, litter comes to the beach. You hope it leaves, many times it doesn’t.”

He and his wife, Denise, just finished their 13-day “Great North Carolina Beach Sweep.” On Wednesday, a team of volunteers joined them to collect more than 20 lbs. of litter in less than 40 minutes.

However, this mission is not just about trash.

“We’re doing this in honor of our daughter, Emma,” said Denise Munson.

Emma died unexpectedly in 2013 during her freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

“Anytime she came home from any activity, play practice or musical practice or anything, she just had tons of recycling with her. She just brought everybody’s recycling home,” Denise said.

Emma wanted to save the world. Now, her parents are doing that for her.

“There were a couple times on the journey that I just felt her, I felt her with us. So I think she approves,” said Denise. “I know Emma would not want us to be sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves.”

Denise says Emma has been a guiding force during this time of healing.

“It has been so therapeutic, all the things that we’re doing,” said Denise. “It’s just helped, helped us heal, it’s made us stronger and you know it’s gotten us through this.”

They have an inspiring journey in coping with tragedy; it’s been almost six years since Emma passed away.

“Life is a gift, cherish every day,” Denise said.

Plus, they are sharing lesson in loving mother earth.

“We all have two hands and a bucket and a bag and that’s all you need,” said Mike.

“If a lot of people do a little, it can make a big difference,” Denise said.

The Munsons started a foundation in Emma’s name. They also have suggestions for how to do your own beach cleanup.

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