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Brown pelican painting by Olivia Bouler Watercolor painting of a brown pelican by eleven-year-old Olivia Bouler. Many brown pelicans live in Louisiana, and have been impacted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo courtesy Olivia Bouler)

Fifth-Grade Artist Paints to Help the Gulf

Olivia Bouler's watercolor bird paintings raise more than $150,000 to help animals affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

By Laura Leigh Davidson | July 8 , 2010
Eleven-year-old artist Olivia Bouler. Olivia has used her artistic talents to raise more than $150,00 to help wildlife affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo courtesy of the Bouler Family) 
Eleven-year-old artist Olivia Bouler. Olivia has used her artistic talents to raise more than $150,00 to help wildlife affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo courtesy of the Bouler Family) 

Eleven-year-old Olivia Bouler has always loved birds. She even wants to be an ornithologist (a person who studies birds) when she grows up. When Olivia learned that birds and other wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico were being hurt by the oil spill, she wanted to help.

The fifth-grader from Islip, New York, has done just that. Using her talents as an artist, she has raised more than $150,000 to help rescue and care for wildlife affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Art for Donations

Olivia started the fundraising project by taking her idea to the National Audubon Society, an organization dedicated to preserving and protecting birds.

"As you all are aware, the oil spill in the Gulf is devastating," Olivia wrote. "I am a decent drawer, and I was wondering if I could sell some bird paintings and give the profits to your organization."

The Audubon Society said yes and helped Olivia develop a plan. She would send an original watercolor painting of a bird to each person who donated money to Audubon to help them care for wildlife in the Gulf. Olivia thought she would be able to raise at least a little bit of money with her personal campaign.

"I thought I would raise $100, $200, that would be at my best," she told CBC News.

Project Takes Off

How did a project that started at a fifth-grader's desk take off and become such a big fundraiser?

Olivia's parents created a Facebook fan page called "Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations" to publicize their daughter's efforts to help Gulf wildlife. (She now has more than 27,000 fans on the social media site.)

People at media company AOL said they were inspired by Olivia's commitment and dedication to saving wildlife in the Gulf. The company and donated $25,000 to Audubon in Olivia's name. AOL also built an artist Web page to showcase her art and raise more awareness of her fundraising efforts.

After that, major news organizations like CNN and NBC noticed her campaign, and word spread like wildfire.

The 'tween artist has received so many requests for her artwork that her parents had to set a limit on how many original paintings Olivia would create. They settled on a total of 500—all of which have been promised to donors. Olivia will spend the rest of the summer completing the 500 orders for her bird paintings.

But Olivia's art is still available to people who want to donate. After making a donation to the Audubon society, contributors can e-mail their receipt and home address to AOL will send donors a limited edition print of one of Olivia's originals as a thank-you for contributing.

Oil Spill Nightmare Continues

Efforts to stop the spill and contain the effects of oil on the Gulf environment and wildlife continue. BP hopes to have relief wells to stop the flow of oil from the ocean floor in place by early- to mid-August. Millions of gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf of Mexico since the April 20 explosion that destroyed the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killing eleven people. The oil spill in the Gulf is the worst in United States history.


Scholastic News Online has been tracking the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Click here for a collection of news stories, video, a kids' poll, and other resources to help kids understand this environmental disaster.


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