Australia’s devastating bushfires have sparked shock and sadness all over the world. The ferocious flames started blazing in September 2019, and have since killed at least 24 people and destroyed more than 18 million acres of land. But perhaps the most tragic fallout from the fires is that a staggering 1 billion animals are estimated to have died. Like many animal lovers, a Massachusetts-based 6-year-old named Owen Colley wanted to find a way to help the remaining bushfire-affected creatures. The young boy and his family came up with the creative idea of making and selling clay koalas, with proceeds going to fire relief efforts.
Owen began making the cute clay characters as thank you gifts for his friends and family who donated $50 or more to Wildlife Rescue South Coast, but the simple idea soon turned into a lucrative campaign. The 6-year-old’s parents began a GoFundMe page, with an initial target of $1,000, but it wasn’t long until the goal was surpassed. “When he reached his initial goal of $1,000 and started getting attention from local newspapers, we set an ambitious new goal of $5,000 and initiated this GoFundMe campaign,” say Owen’s parents. “Never in a million years did we expect to be so successful or meet and hear from so many amazing people—you’re the world’s best!”
As of writing, Owen and his family have raised over $250,000 for Wildlife Rescue South Coast—and the figure continues to grow. The money will help the organization build shelters for displaced animals and help individuals set up feeding stations on their properties, so animals without homes have somewhere safe to go.
Owen and his family have been working hard to sculpt and deliver thousands of clay koalas, and they even hosted a clay koala-making party to get more people involved. “Thank you ALL for helping a little boy do a BIG thing,” say the boy’s parents. “Owen wishes he could send a clay koala to everyone in the world! We are so proud of this little boy and his kind heart.”