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.

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.

Just over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, we're finally seeing a light at the end of our socially distanced tunnel. We still have a ways to go, but with millions of vaccines being doled out daily, we're well on our way toward somewhat normal life again. Hallelujah.

As we head toward that light, it's natural to look back over our shoulders at the past year to see what we're leaving behind. There's the "good riddance" stuff of course—the mass deaths, the missing loved ones, the closed-up businesses, the economic, social and political strife—which no one is going to miss.

But there's personal stuff, too. As we reflect on how we coped, how we spent our time, what we did and didn't do this past year, we're thinking about what we'll be bringing out of the tunnel with us.

And some of us are finding that comes with a decent dose of regret. Maybe a little guilt. Some disappointment as we go down the coulda-woulda-shoulda road.

Keep Reading Show less
RODNAE Productions via Pexels
True

The past year has changed the way a lot of people see the world and brought the importance of global change to the forefront. However, even social impact entrepreneurs have had to adapt to the changing circumstances brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.

"The first barrier is lack of funding. COVID-19 has deeply impacted many of our supporters, and we presume it will continue to do so. Current market volatility has caused many of our supporters to scale back or withdraw their support altogether," said Brisa de Angulo, co-founder of A Breeze of Hope Foundation, a non-profit that prevents childhood sexual violence in Bolivia and winner of the 2020 Elevate Prize.

To help social entrepreneurs scale their impact for the second year in a row, The Elevate Prize is awarding $5 million to 10 innovators, activists, and problem–solvers who are making a difference in their communities every day.

"We want to see extraordinary people leading high-impact projects that are elevating opportunities for all people, elevating issues and their solutions, or elevating understanding of and between people," The Elevate Prize website states.

Founded in 2019 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Joseph Deitch, The Elevate Prize is dedicated to giving unsung social entrepreneurs the necessary resources to scale their impact and to ultimately help inspire and awaken the hero in all of us.

"The Elevate Prize remains committed to finding a radically diverse group of innovative problem solvers and investing unconventional and personalized resources that bring greater visibility to them as leaders and the vital work they do. We make good famous," said Carolina García Jayaram, executive director, Elevate Prize Foundation.

The application process will take place in two phases. Applicants have till May 5 for Phase 1, which will include a short written application. A select number of those applicants will then be chosen for Phase 2, which includes a more robust set of questions later this summer. Ten winners will be announced in October 2021.

In addition to money, winners will also receive support from The Elevate Prize to help amplify their mission, achieve their goals, and receive mentorship and industry connections.

Last year, 1,297 candidates applied for the prize.

The 10 winners include Simprints, a UK-based nonprofit implementing biometric solutions to give people in the developing world hope and access to a better healthcare system; ReThink, a patented, innovative app that detects offensive messages and gives users a chance to reconsider posting them; and Guitars Over Guns, an organization bridging the opportunity gap for youth from vulnerable communities through transformational access to music, connectivity, and self-empowerment.

You can learn more about last year's winners, here.

If you know of someone or you yourself are ready to scale your impact, apply here today.