Kids + Family, People of LoganMay 30, 2024 / 5 minute read

Community surprises Garbo-loving schoolboy

An amazing display of community teamwork has helped raise the spirits of a Garbo-obsessed young boy who was left devastated by the passing of his grandfather.

For Ethan Nilsen, 11, from Daisy Hill, the fascination with all things garbage trucks began when he was just a baby. His grandfather Sveinung ‘Simon’ Nilsen would walk him outside to see and hear the trucks to help soothe him — a tradition the pair continued.

Out of that tradition sprung a YouTube channel called Queensland Garbo with Ethan so far producing 660 videos that have been viewed collectively more than 210,000 times.

Waving and chatting to the drivers developed into getting to know their names, their truck model and number and their routes across the suburb.

So when Mr Nilsen passed away suddenly last month, young Ethan was left devastated at the loss of his grandfather — the person who encouraged this fascination for Garbos, their routes and the trucks, was gone.

In an uplifting display of community teamwork, Logan City Council and Cleanaway joined together to surprise Ethan on Tuesday, 28 May, by picking him up in his favourite truck and taking him to school.

Ethan’s aunt, Rachel Nilsen, says it has been a tough time for the family, especially as Ethan’s grandfather had been his primary carer.

‘This treat meant so much to him,’ Rachel says.

‘It makes me all warm and fuzzy knowing people care about him as much as we do.

‘He’s only 11 but he’s already counting down the days until he turns 18 and can start to learn how to drive a truck.

‘He definitely wants to be a garbo himself and I’m sure this surprise has only strengthened his determination.’

Ethan was left beaming after he was dropped off at the gates of Daisy Hill State School where he is a grade 6 student.

‘That was so cool,’ he says.

‘I loved going around the streets in the truck, and with the two steering wheels (garbage trucks are dual operated) it was like I was really driving.

‘Next time I’d like to try emptying some bins. I reckon I’d knock a few over but it would be great to give it a try.’

Ethan Nilsen in the garbage truck cabin with Cleanaway driver Krystle Tilley.

Ethan was driven around the streets of Daisy Hill by Krystle Tilley, a driver with Cleanaway for 3 years.

She was the first to notice Ethan’s presence nearly every time she emptied bins in his street. Initial waves and chats out of the truck window turned into a friendship.

‘He’s my special little man,’ a teary Krystle says.

‘I told my boss about how friendly he is and how much he knows about our operations and when I heard about his grandfather dying, I just wanted to do something to help lift his spirits.’

Mayor Jon Raven says the surprise underlined the strong community spirit that exists in the City of Logan.

‘Ethan has been watching from afar but now he got his hands dirty and enjoyed his first go at garbage truck operator life,’ Cr Raven says.

Cr Mindy Russell, who helped organise the surprise, says Ethan is well known in his Daisy Hill neighbourhood for his constant engagement with the garbage truck drivers.

‘He loves watching them at work and I’m sure his regular chats and waves is a highlight of their day as well,’ Cr Russell says.

Ethan Nilsen ready to ride to school in the garbage truck, standing with Cr Mindy Russell and Mayor Jon Raven.

The surprise school run follows an earlier visit by Ethan and his family to Cleanaway’s Logan depot, where he learned more about garbage collection and recycling processes in the City of Logan and was presented with a gift bag.

‘He’s a special little fellow and we wanted to make this happen,’ Declan Worth says, as Cleanaway Operations Manager in Logan.

View Ethan’s YouTube channel on this link for Queensland Garbo.

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