After hearing about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 11-year-old (as of this Friday) Olivia Bouler was devastated—and determined to act. She and her parents brainstormed ways to help, and it dawned on her: “I have a little artistic talent,” she says modestly. So she began sending original bird illustrations to donors who contribute to oil spill relief efforts.
People have noticed. Since she began her campaign, Olivia has sent out 150 illustrations (she's capped the number at 500, after which contributors will receive limited edition prints) and attracted more than 9,000 fans on her Facebook page. And just yesterday, AOL announced “Olivia’s Help the Gulf Wildlife Project,” a partnership with the young artist to help display her work and enhance aid going to one organization in particular that’s responding to the spill: The National Audubon Society. The Internet service juggernaut also donated its own cool $25,000 to Audubon, in Olivia’s name.
Olivia’s interest in birds, however, transcends the recent Gulf disaster. “I want to become an ornithologist,” she says, and has already set her sights on Cornell, home of the renowned Lab of Ornithology.
“I’ve always been fascinated by [birds].” She’s even hooked her family, which enjoys watching birds arrive at feeders around their vacation cottage. “I didn’t anticipate that my child’s interests would become mine,” says her mom, Nadine Bouler. “She’s brought birding to us, and that has been a really great part of our journey as a family.”
This summer, Olivia, her parents, and her younger brother have planned a trip to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about birds and the environment. For Olivia, when a person feels strongly about a cause, there’s no recourse but taking action. “If you can do something to help, always do it,” she says. Art was her solution, but she has advice for others who may not share her talents: “If people don’t know what their strengths are yet, they should try to use their smarts and problem solving ability to tell other people [about the disaster],” she says. “The best thing you can do is really just shoot for the stars.”