A 6-year-old has raised more than $260,000 for Australian wildlife selling his handmade clay koalas

Owen Colley, age 6, started his clay koala project with a goal of raising $1000 for the animals affected by Australia's unprecedented bushfires.

That was two weeks ago. As of this morning, the kindergartener has raised more than 250 times that amount, and the total is rapidly climbing.


Owen is an American and lives in Massachusetts. But his father, Simon, grew up in Sydney and the family lived in Australia for a few months when Owen was a toddler. His mother, Caitlin, told CNN that Owen was saddened to hear about the animals who had been hurt in the fires, so he drew a picture of a kangaroo, koala, and dingo in the rain—a representation of his wish for the land down under.

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"It was really the first time Owen had made a wish for something other than Lego or something other than himself," Caitlin Colley told CNN. "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."

They decided that anyone who donated $50 or more to Wildlife Rescue South Coast would receive one of Owen's handmade clay koalas. He set an initial goal of $1000 and met it. But donations kept coming, so the family set up a GoFundMe with a goal of raising $5000. They've since blown way past that goal, hitting the $264,000 mark as of today.

The Colleys posted the following update to the GoFundMe page last Friday, when they had almost reached $200,000.

$195k - WOW! You are incredible.

We had our first koala party today - 14 friends ranging in age from 3-67 trialing the best tricks for koala production. Success! We went through 10 packs of silver Sculpey III and Sculpey has more arriving for us on Tuesday - we'll be out chasing the UPS truck! Thank you, Sculpey!!

Accutech has offered custom packaging and we are so excited to get creative with them! I won't give it away, but our packaging will be competing with your clay koala in the cuteness department. We are soo grateful they reached out.

And we're now on instagram: @littleclaykoalas

Thanks for following along! We hope you're all enjoying your weekend - we sure are!

And as of this weekend, they've had to announce that they simply won't be able to keep up with the demand, but people are still welcome to donate to the cause.

Update on clay koalas - please read before you donate!! 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 and sending. 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!

Thank you ALL for helping a little boy do a BIG thing - Owen wishes he could send a clay koala to everyone in the world! We are so proud of this little boy and his kind.

The US Consulate in Sydney has even recognized Owen's efforts, with the help of William Shatner.

Way to go, Owen, and well done Colleys for supporting your son's sweet initiative.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.