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.

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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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