Pictures and videos of the wildfires wreaking havoc across Australia are heartbreaking to see; when Owen Colley, a six-year-old boy from Hingham, Massachusetts, learned of the devastation, he wanted to find a way to help. He started crafting small gray koalas out of clay to raise money for the animals who were hurt. His parents, Caitlin and Simon Colley, started accepting donations via the mobile payment app Venmo and sent one of Owen's clay koalas to each person who donated at least $50. Within a week, Owen had raised more than $20,000, which prompted his parents to create a GoFundMe campaign. As of Thursday morning, Owen had raised more than $102,000, which far surpassed his initial goal of $1,000.
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According to CNN, Simon Colley, Owen's father, grew up in Sydney—"[Owen] has a pull to Australia," Caitlin Colley told CNN. "He's very proud of the fact that he lived there. I don't think he remembers any of it but he's proud of it."
The Colley family has received over 1,7000 donations from all 50 states. According to an Instagram post from the Wildlife Rescue South Coast, it takes just $25 to feed a kangaroo joey for one month, meaning that Owen's efforts alone can feed more than 4,000 joeys.
The Colley Family
Donations will be going to Wildlife Rescue South Coast Inc. who are currently building aviaries, boxes, and enclosures for displaced animals and helping individuals set up feeding stations on their properties, so animals whose homes and food sources have been destroyed have somewhere to go, according to the GoFundMe page.
"We are humbled beyond belief—your generosity toward fire-affected animals, and to a little boy doing his part to help them, is staggering,” the family wrote on their GoFundMe page. "Your donations, messages, and support have brought us to tears. And now, we have a lot of clay koalas to make! Thank you."
An estimated one billion animals have perished due to the wildfires and even more are at risk of losing their habitats.