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.

RELATED: A 6-year-old designed a custom t-shirt for his first day of school and it's seriously the best

"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.

I'll say this up front so that there's zero confusion: Child sex trafficking is real, it's heinous, and it's been going on for a long time. Everyone who buys or sells a child or partakes in harming a child in any way should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. There is no place in civil society for people who sexually abuse children or who profit off of the abuse of children. Full stop. No question.

But we have careened into some twisted waters in our social discourse around child sex trafficking, to the point where the real issue of is being conflated with outrageous conspiracy theories that deflect from the real work being done to save children, put innocent people in harm's way, and interfere with the integrity of our elections.

I wrote about this issue recently and was met with accusations of being paid off by powerful pedophiles (ugh, seriously?), a flood of people saying "No, you're wrong!" while offering zero evidence, and a bunch of YouTube and Facebook videos that people seem to think are credible sources. I got fake screenshots of supposed Wikileaks emails that aren't actually on Wikileaks when you search for them. I got people who only listen to fringe outlets that have no oversight or accountability claiming that my well-cited, real news sources were a part of the whole conspiracy. All of that stuff I could ignore. Whackadoodles are gonna whackadoodle no matter how many facts you throw at them.

But I also got a few people sharing a list of nearly 100 politicians and other powerful people who have been convicted of child sex crimes. That was different, because it was factual.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

Forrest Galante will never forget the first time he ever saw a shark in person. "I was 7 or 8 years old and was snorkeling with my grandfather," the outdoor adventure TV personality told Upworthy. "We were in Mozambique where I grew up and I was holding my grandfather's hand underwater as he guided me. It was a small reef shark. What seemed like this huge animal appeared out of nowhere, racing through the darkness and suddenly I was looking into its beautiful eyes. I was in awe but I also think I grabbed my granddad's hand just a little bit tighter."

25 years later, Galante, is a world-renowned conversation activist who hosts the Extinct or Alive program on Animal Planet. He has interacted with some of the planet's most intriguing and intimidating creatures but it's hard to think of a living creature that has more powerfully captured our collective imagination than sharks.

This year, Galante is hosting his schedule special as part of the legendary Shark Week series. In tonight's episode, Galante travels to the northeast coast of South Africa, the "Land of the Lost Sharks," where he looks to find the Pondicherry, a species of shark believed to have gone extinct decades ago.


Keep Reading Show less