(TMU) — It can be hard to handle the constantly slew of news coming out of Australia detailing the damage done by the devastating bushfires that have ravaged the island nation since September. While many people feel helpless and inclined to look away, at least one young boy in the United States decided to do something about it.
One by one, 6-year-old Owen Colley crafts small clay koalas by hand. It was only two weeks ago when the young Hingham, Massachusetts boy learned of the fires. He immediately wanted to know if any animals had been hurt. Owen’s mom, Caitlin Colley, told him the truth.
Little Owen then grabbed some supplies and drew a picture of a koala, a kangaroo, and a dingo sitting in the rain—a representation of his wish for Australia.
Owen’s mom explained to CNN on Sunday:
“It was really the first time Owen had made a wish for something other than Lego or something other than himself. We asked him if he wanted to help and … together we came up with this. We could make some clay koalas and give them in response to donations from friends and family.”
Owen then took his wish a little further by making tiny gray koalas out of clay for each person who donates $50 or more to Wildlife Rescue South Coast, a wildlife rescue group in New South Wales (NSW)—one of the areas hit hardest by the fires.
As of Tuesday Owen had made nearly 60 of the small koalas and had helped raise more than $20,000 in just a week after having set an initial goal of only $1,000.
His efforts began through an Instagram post and donations collected via Venmo and soon expanded to a GoFundMe campaign that has now raised more than $105,000, far exceeding his goal of $5,000 set on the fundraising platform. But according to the campaign’s text Owen is hoping to raise “$3 million” via Owen’s Australian Creature Rescue.
Owen is now “committed to making 1,000 clay koalas“—a whopping ten times his initial goal. He also wants to make sure people “know more about Australia and I want them to know more about what animals are in Australia,” Owen told CNN.
As it turns out, Owen has a special connection to the island continent that likely helped spur his drive to give in this spectacular way. Simon, Owen’s father, grew up just outside of Sydney and Owen himself lived there for a few months as a toddler. His mother explained that Owen is “very proud of the fact that he lived there. I don’t think he remembers any of it but he’s proud of it.”
The 6-year-old from Massachusetts hopes to go back to Australia one day. Perhaps when he does he can visit Wildlife Rescue South Coast and learn firsthand what his giving spirit was able to accomplish during this devastating time.
The fires that began in September have burned 25.5 million acres (10.3 million hectares) of land and Ecologists at the University of Sydney estimate that over 1 billion animals have been killed in the bushfires.