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Crafty kid raises bushfire donations from afar

25 January 2020 at 12:00 pm
Maggie Coggan
The hand-crafted koala fundraiser has hit nearly $400,000 

Maggie Coggan | 25 January 2020 at 12:00 pm


Crafty kid raises bushfire donations from afar
25 January 2020 at 12:00 pm

The hand-crafted koala fundraiser has hit nearly $400,000 

When six-year-old Owen found out about the Australian bushfires and the impact on native wildlife from his hometown in Massachusetts, he was distraught. 

But using his love for art and animals, Owen (with the help of his parents Caitlin and Simon) has put his two passions towards a good cause – making small clay koalas to help raise money for the Australian wildlife charity, Wildlife Rescue South Coast.

While the koalas were originally intended just for friends and family to thank them for donating to the fundraiser, the clay replicas started to cause quite a stir.

“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,” a post on the fundraiser said. 

“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!”

The page raised over US$270,000 (AU$400,000) in just 10 days, with the family receiving messages of support from people around the world and orders for nearly 3,000 koalas. 

The company that makes the clay used by Owen has also donated clay to the family, and a packaging company has donated material for the koalas.

But with demand so high for Owen’s koala art, the family has pulled the brakes on production. 

“As this campaign continues to soar beyond what we ever thought possible, we unfortunately need to limit the number of clay koalas we commit to making,” a post on the fundraiser page said.  

“As such, we will not be able to say ‘thank you’ with a koala for donations received after 11:59 pm PST, Sunday, January 19th.  With this said, all donations are still greatly appreciated!”

An Instagram account has been set up to document the process, and the family is now working on a YouTube channel so other children at home can make their own koalas. 

“The project was a way for Owen to process what was happening and feel that when there is a big problem happening there is something you can do,” Caitlin said. 

“If the goal of this was to make a little boy feel he could make a big difference, we want other kids to be able to feel that too.”  

Sydney University ecologist Chris Dickman, has estimated more than a billion animals have died around the country as a result of the bushfires – a figure that excludes fish, frogs, bats and insects. 

Koalas are one of the species most at risk, with a large portion of their natural habitat in New South Wales and Victoria destroyed by the fires. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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