Sullie Saves the Seas…and Inspires Next Generation of Environmentalists

hispanic outlook magazine

Olivia and Carter Ries were inspired by real-life environmental issues to start a nonprofit organization and try to make a difference around the world.  Similarly, author Goffinet McLaren saw firsthand the impact of littering on the environment and decided to take action.

“After retiring to live at the beach in South Carolina, I became distraught by the thoughtless human behavior that had descended on our beaches,” McLaren told Hispanic Outlook.  “After a few weeks of constantly picking up plastic litter and talking to people who were deaf to the enormity of the problem, I had to find a better way to communicate with a larger audience. I felt compelled to take stronger action in a fun way in order to make a difference.”

Her children’s book, “Sullie Saves the Seas,” is about a seagull who grows so sad and upset by humans littering the beaches and oceans that he decides to change things in his own unique way.

“The basic story illustrates to oblivious humans how their careless littering behavior can have devastating consequences to shore birds and all marine life. Sullie, who is a prankster at heart, enjoys planning naughty activities, which resonate with humans to help them understand the error of their ways.”

McLauren said that the original version of Sullie’s story became so popular that she decided to expand the appeal of Sullie’s pranks by including coloring options to help reinforce his message.  Many children, she said, have written to me saying that Sullie was the best book that they had ever read and laughed from start to finish.

“Yes, I have read the book ‘Sullie Saves the Seas,’” Carter told Hispanic Outlook adding, “and I would recommend it to all schools.  It shows a way that the slightest of creatures that no one pays much attention to can make a difference.  It resembles society and how sometimes the people who go unnoticed can make the biggest impact.  Goffinet McLaren is a great writer, and it has inspired me to reach out to more of the youth and get them to read this amazing book about the unlikeliest of heroes.  

“I have read this book, and I absolutely love it,” Olivia told Hispanic Outlook.  “I think that it should be mandatory for all schools to read it.  Sullie and his friends help people understand how their actions affect animals everywhere.  Mrs. Goffinet not only understands how bad the problem is, she also understands how to reach children of all ages, and that is why I think her book is so popular.  I think this book should be translated in Spanish and other languages, so kids around the world can learn from Sullie.

“Olivia and Carter started One More Generation around the same time that I discovered plastic litter on Sullie’s Turtle Beach,” McLauren said.  “Through Facebook we discovered that our environmental interests overlapped, and we shared a common passion to make a difference for the benefit of our Planet and all that live on it.”

“Sullie Saves the Seas” is recommended for grades 2-6.

Carter Ries' Q&A:

What first inspired you to create OMG?

When my aunt was in South Africa she had adopted cheetahs for us.  It was a huge gift, and we were so proud to be parents of cheetahs.  We did have one question though.  We asked our dad why cheetahs needed to be adopted.  He told us that if we didn’t protect the cheetahs like the rescue center we had adopted from, then there might not be cheetahs when we have kids.  That got us really upset, and at that moment we knew that we were serious about protecting cheetahs along with all of the beautiful creatures of this world.

What was your parents’ reaction to you wanting to start a nonprofit?

At first, our parents didn’t think that we were being serious.  So we proved it to them.  We studied for 14 days on different endangered species without our parents reminding us.  This eventually proved to them that were extremely serious about helping save the planet.

What steps did you and your family have to take to start OMG?  What were some of the challenges?

For the moment, we were so caught up in the fact that we had just (not entirely) started our own company.  Yes we did have to get a 501(C)3 filed so that we were an actual nonprofit organization.  After that we just sat down and started to have family board meetings to figure out our first project, if it was big or small animals we focused on, etc.  The toughest part is always trying to find funding so we can do even more.

Where did the name OMG come from?

While we were studying for the two weeks, my mom pulled my dad to the side and said that “If we are going to go through with this, than we have to incorporate the letters OMG into the company name.”  My dad of course asked why, and she explained that every time we flipped the page and learned about another endangered species, we would say “Oh My Gosh” or OMG.  She said ‘we need to add those letters because that is the emotion it evoked in us’. 

What was the first cause OMG took on and what challenges were involved?

The first cause we took-on was collecting money for the cheetah rescue center in South Africa.  We did this by standing outside and asking people for money, and we explained what it was for.  Being small (cute as my mom and dad would say) children we got more attention.  But the pros always come with the cons, and because we were children we weren’t taken seriously.  We did manage to collect over $1,000, and we used our mom’s airline miles and went to South Africa and hand delivered the check to the founder of the Ann Van Dyke Cheetah Center.  It was amazing to see the work we had done be fulfilled.

What are some other causes that OMG has helped with?

Some of the other causes we helped with were Rattlesnake roundups, which are places where rattlesnakes get killed for fun, where we got a whole community to respect them as creatures of the wild, rather than toys for your children.  We collected over 10,000 letters to raise awareness for the Rhino poaching in South Africa for their horns.  We also created a Plastic Pollution Awareness Week where we go into schools and teach kids about different types of plastic, and what items can be used that are much more sustainable.  We have done work with the Sea Turtles where OMG and Oceana joined up and collected over 1,200 letters to get all shrimping vessels to have a TED (Turtle Extruder Device), which allows the sea turtles to escape the shrimping nets.  We are now working on raising awareness about the plight of Orangutans; our next campaign will be about saving Pangolins.  Environmentally, we started a One Less Straw Pledge Campaign to reduce the amount of straws ending up in our landfill and reducing the number of deaths being caused by these useless items. 

Does OMG work specifically with schools and if so how?

OMG does work with schools.  We do it in many different ways.  One way is through our weeklong curriculum where we teach the students about plastic pollution and environmental issues.  The other way is through animal conservation presentations.  If we have a project that we are starting or if we are trying to get students involved with what we are doing, we often teach students about youth empowerment or specific species we are working on at the moment, so they too can realize that their voice matters and that we all need to be the voice of the voiceless.

Who has helped with OMG’s outreach?  Has anyone famous been involved?

We have had many people get involved with helping our outreach.  Such examples like The Captain Planet Foundation, and Oceana.  We have been helped by famous people like artist Asher Jay, Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Pachauri, and Founder of CNN and Captain Planet; Ted Turner.  Thanks to these people we have had great opportunities and have grown tremendously.

Tell us more about the OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign.  What do kids and teenagers need to do to get involved with it?

The One Less Straw Pledge Campaign is trying to reduce the amount of straws ending up in our landfill and eventually in the mouths of unsuspecting sea creatures.  We are getting students to go online to OneLessStraw.org and sign a pledge stating that they will go straw free for an entire month.  Let me rephrase that, plastic straw free.  You are allowed to use reusable straws such as glass, metal and bamboo, but we are asking everyone to stay away from the plastic straws because they cannot biodegrade and harm our environment for hundreds of years.

There are many types of pollutants.  What made you think of plastic straws in particular for the OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign?

 Yes there are many pollutants out there.  The main reason we chose straws was due to the fact that we see them more than we do some of the others.  My dad would go out to get a drink, and I would see up to 12-20 straws lying on the ground.  I would pick them up, and next time we came, another load of straws.  This eventually annoyed me, so we did research and saw that we are using over 500,000,000 straws every single day, and they are ending up in our landfill.  This was disturbing, and we decided that this was the new project to do because all you had to do was ‘say no to a straw,’ how hard is that?

In addition to OneLessStraw, what are some other ways that kids and teenagers can get involved at OMG?

 Plastic straws are not the only way you can get involved with us.  You can easily check out the other projects we are doing and email us at info@onemoregeneration.org and find out what you can do for the species, or the environment.  If you have your own idea, we can help you turn that into an action and get you on your way to making the world a better place.

You first began OMG in 2009.  What has continued to motivate you to keep OMG going?

 We started OMG because of cheetahs, and now we are focusing on everything from animals to climate change.  We realized that if we just sit back and wait for someone else to fix the problems, than nothing would get done.  The issues just keep coming, but we can keep them at bay if we work hard and knowing that helped us stay motivated and continue the work we are doing.

Outside of OMG, have you gotten involved with any other outreaches or groups and if so which ones?   

 Outside of OMG I have been involved with different organizations such as the Botanical Garden with helping with frogs, and even my school with the green club.  My sister and I volunteer regularly at local homeless shelters, and we try to help the Children’s Restoration Network of Atlanta whenever we can.

What advice do you have for kids and teenagers who want to make a difference like you have?  What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start a nonprofit?

 My advice to those out there who want to get involved with something, be it music, dance, animal or environmental conservation or helping in your own community, is to ‘voice your opinion.’  You need to constantly tell people what you are interested in, and if they don’t listen, then keep going.  You are the generation that can make a difference, and if you don’t keep pushing your beliefs and actions, then the future generation won’t have any idea about the meaning of perseverance.  It is your job to make the world a better place, and I don’t care if you want to be musician, you need to sing your way up and inspire people to make the change they need to make.

This is a bit of a follow up on the last question, but often people get discouraged from getting involved or become cynical about how much they can truly help (I’m only one person, nothing I do will be enough to make a difference, I’m just a kid, etc.).  What advice would you give to people who feel like this?

 I realize that people often get discouraged at the fact that they are just one person and how can they make a difference and that they are just a kid.  Well if everyone thought that they were just a kid, then there is no reason to be a one.  Think of it this way.  K.I.D.S stands for Kind Intelligent Delightful Souls.  Kids are the reason we know so much.  Kids are the reason we learn.  Without being a child we have no way of knowing what the world has to offer.  Adults often get caught up in jobs and paying bills and other issues and rarely take the time to sit down and enjoy life.  But kids can.  They have all the power to make a difference.  As kids we can take the needed step to ensure a better, brighter future for other kids.  So yeah, no one is just a kid.

Who has or have been your greatest inspiration(s)?

 My greatest inspiration is the Philosopher Socrates.  He would do things out of the ordinary and was seen as different.  He didn’t care what others thought or what they did, but he did things most people wouldn’t.  In his case he asked questions.  He did not know the answer to some of these questions but simply asked.  He got mixed responses and attitudes towards some of them but continued anyway.  He did this because he knew that knowledge was hidden and needed to be brought to light.  I realize that this is the same as what we are doing.  We are doing things out of the ordinary and doing things that are seen as different.  In our case we are ensuring the protection of this planet for future generations to come.  Just like Socrates, we do not know the answer or outcome of some of our efforts, but we simply try.  We know that the truth has been hidden, and we need to dig it up and show it to the world and get others to start digging up their own knowledge.

The writer Goffinet McLaren wrote a book called “Sullie Saves the Seas” about a seagull that sees how polluted the oceans and beaches are and decides to make a difference.  Is this a book you’ve read and what do you think of it?  Do you think this book would be good for schools to use?

 Yes I have read the book “Sullie Saves the Seas,” and I would recommend it to all schools.  It shows a way that the slightest of creatures that no one pays much attention to can make a difference.  It resembles society and how sometimes the people who go unnoticed can make the biggest impact.  Goffinet McLaren is a great writer, and it has inspired me to reach out to more of the youth and get them to read this amazing book about the unlikeliest of heroes.  

Goffinet Mclaren's Q&A:

What is the basic story of “Sullie Saves the Seas A Story Coloring Book?”

The basic story illustrates to oblivious humans how their careless littering behavior can have devastating consequences to shore birds and all marine life. Sullie who is a prankster at heart enjoys planning naughty activities, which resonate with humans to help them understand the error of their ways.

What inspired you to write the story?

After retiring to live at the beach in SC, I became distraught by the thoughtless human behavior that had descended on our beaches. After a few weeks of constantly picking up plastic litter, and talking to people who were deaf to the enormity of the problem, I had to find a better way to communicate with a larger audience. I felt compelled to take stronger action in a fun way in order to make a difference.

What inspired to pick a seagull for your main character?

My first thought was that I would personally have to patrol the beach 24/7 before I realized that seagulls lolled on our beaches most of the day. And who better to capture the imagination and hearts of children than a savvy old seagull with a black ring around his right eye?

How could the book be used in schools and/ or incorporated into lesson plans? What grades would you recommend this book for?

My book could and is used in schools around the world to increase student awareness about the problems of plastic litter on our beaches and in our oceans. The children love and learn from the fables. Many children have written to me saying that Sullie was the best book that they had ever read and laughed from start to finish.

The book is most suitable for children in grades 2-6, although older students, parents and grandparents also laugh with, learn from and love Sullie Seagull.

There appears to be two versions of your book outline: a storybook and a storybook with pictures that children can color. Why are there two versions of the story?

The original version of Sullie’s story became so popular that I decided to expand the appeal of Sullie’s pranks by including coloring options to help reinforce his message.

At the beginning of the story, Sullie is looking at plastic pollution and crying. For many people, they would be discouraged by all the pollution that Sullie saw to the point that they may feel that the problem is insurmountable, and they might not take action.

Rather than being discouraged by Sullie’s tears, children are provoked to ask why the seagull is crying? The question opens the door to explain to enquiring minds that they can help solve Sullie’s problems by increasing awareness and sharing the OMG slogan: “If we can make a difference, you can too.”

I like to encourage children with one of Margaret Mead’s most popular quotes:  Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.

How are you involved with OMG?

Olivia and Carter started One More Generation around the same time that I discovered plastic litter on Sullie’s Turtle Beach. Through Facebook we discovered that our environmental interests overlapped, and we shared a common passion to make a difference for the benefit of our Planet and all that live on it. Over the intervening years, we have met many times and we have supported many of each other’s various projects, ranging from plastic, to oil drilling, to exotic animal conservation, to the One Less Straw Campaign.

Laura Turner Seydel's Q&A:

What is your connection and involvement with OMG?

For years Captain Planet Foundation and the Chattahoochee Nature Center worked together to bring youth and the environmental community together for Earth Day Kids Fest. From the time they were 7 and 8 years old, Carter and Olivia were engaged, involved and leading in a significant way. Inspired by the important documentary film Bag It, even their incredible dad, Jim Ries, was willing to go above and beyond the call of duty by attending as the Bag Monster donning the 500 plastic shopping bags one shopper will consume in one year. In this case the proverbial apples don’t fall far from the tree!

It’s been great to watch them grow up and become more involved and engaged as key youth leaders. From the time the spark was ignited when they learned about the sad plight of endangered animals in Africa to the animals affected by the BP oil spill in the Gulf, they didn’t sit back and wait for others to solve the problem. They took action. They started a nonprofit, started volunteering, built awareness and raised critical funds to do the work. They’ve done a great job of engaging youth on how they could make a difference in their own communities. Carter and Olivia have provided a roadmap for their peers when it comes to thinking globally and acting locally. 

Carter and Olivia’s impressive work helped to secure a cash grant for their nonprofit. This grant was for inspiring youth to take action and reduce their plastic footprints. In 2014, Olivia and Carter received CPF’s Young Superhero(es) for Earth Award based on their work to raise awareness of environmental issues among others. As exemplary youth and environmental stewards, they complement our mission and have become our ambassadors in different venues.

This year, in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of CPF, Carter and Olivia along with other youth superheroes for Earth Award recipients, including Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Hannah Testa, and Charles Orgbon, were lead participants in a Youth Summit. They shared their passion for activism so that the audience would be inspired to make a difference in their own sphere of influence.

OMG is also a key partner of CPF’s Project Hero, a project based learning tool that connects kids to the threatened and vulnerable plants and animals where they live - and empowers them to design and implement solutions. Carter and Olivia bring an authentic youth perspective to the program, which is intended to inspire other kids to follow in their same footsteps. When we go and talk to kids about our programs, Olivia and Carter have had a lot of success in influencing others to get involved.

What inspires you and those at your company to take such an interest in and promote environmental programs and education?

The Captain Planet Cartoon series, which began airing in 1990, was designed to “Edutain” kids around the world in 100 countries and 23 languages about issues of global importance specifically environmental and social issues. The foundation was founded in 1991 to give grants to educators for hands on learning projects, including renewable energy projects, recycling, water testing and monitoring, and habitat restoration among others. A hugely successful program and one of my favorites is CPF Learning Gardens in schools across the country.  Kids love to plant in the garden and love to eat the fruit and veggies they grow, all while learning their lessons in an outdoor, living laboratory.

My dad Ted Turner started the Captain Planet Cartoon series to “Edutain” kids about environmental and social issues. We started CPF to give small grants to educators for hands on learning projects, including recycling, water monitoring and restoring habitat among others. Now we also have my favorite program, the Captain Planet Learning Garden Program, in several states around the country. 

My father, Ted Turner, and Barbara Pyle who co-founded CPF 25 years ago knew it was critically important to get kids outside and to be able to problem solve around issues that were being addressed in their schoolyards and communities.  It has been an honor to continue building on this incredible legacy as Board Chair of the Foundation. I am inspired and energized to watch youth learn they can make a difference and become the crucially important cadre of stewards of our life support system. In the last 25 years we have funded over 1,915 projects and directly benefitted over 10 million youth!

In your own words, tell us a little about Olivia and Carter and their commitment to conservation and making a difference.  If possible, please feel free to talk about any projects you have worked with them on.

Carter and Olivia are two brave and committed people, exemplified by their trip to South Africa to deliver 10,000 letters from children around the world to President Zuma to stop the poaching of endangered animals. Once there, they were told they could only present three letters, so they would follow through on their commitment to the children to deliver the letters they arrived to the location early and hid their bins of letters under the tables. When it was their turn to address the President and audience, they lifted up the table skirts to reveal 10,000 letters! I was so impressed as well after I saw their film Rhinos United, documenting their trip and the plight of the Rhino. Carter and Olivia were stars as they went from school to school to engage youth who had never even seen the animals they were being asked to protect. Ultimately the children wanted to help the rhinos and became activists themselves.

I am super excited about Carter and Olivia's recent launch of the One Less Straw Campaign because one-use, plastic, throw-away items are my number one pet peeve and topping that list is the insidious plastic straw.  Approximately 500,000,000 plastic straws in the U.S. alone are consumed every day, enough to wrap around the earth’s circumference two and a half times!!! They are a major contributor to the world’s plastic pollution problem, but refusing them is such a simple action we can all take.  It's all about the 4 R’s - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and REFUSE one-use, throw-away plastics!! Educating other young people to start this habit early will have a lasting impact!

OliviA Ries' Q&A:

What first inspired you to create OMG?

What first inspired me was when my aunt went to South Africa and was wondering what to get my brother and I as a gift, so she decided to adopt two cheetahs, and she brought us two certificates saying that we are now the adoptive parents of the cheetahs. We were so excited.  Later, we asked why animals needed to be adopted, and once my dad told me why, I realized that we need to protect these animals so that they won’t go extinct.

What was your parents’ reaction to you wanting to start a nonprofit?

At first they didn’t hear us, but after repeating it over and over again, they finally listened and asked what they could do to help.

What steps did you and your family have to take to start OMG?  What were some of the challenges?

The first thing we did was to reach out to local nonprofits and ask their advice.  Many recommended we seek help from a nonprofit attorney to help us with filing the paperwork and that was the best advice we had.  One of the main challenges has always been raising funds.  We spend so much time working on our educational outreach initiatives that we never seem to find the time to raise the funds that are so badly needed.

Where did the name OMG come from?

The first thing that we did was come up with company names. The challenges with that is that all of the names I came up with did not make any sense (remember, I was only seven at the time), so we kept trying and finally my brother said that it should me Please Save Me for the Next Generation.  My mom said we should use the letters OMG in the company name since that was our reaction every time we learned about another animal on the brink of extinction.  So we took Carter’s idea and made it into One More Generation (OMG).

What was the first cause OMG took on and what challenges were involved?

Our first mission was to raise money to help the cheetahs in South Africa. We raised over $1,000.00 and then used our mom’s airline miles to fly to South Africa and hand deliver a big check to the founder of the cheetah rescue center. It was amazing!  It took us awhile to raise the money because we had never tried anything like that before.

What are some other causes that OMG has helped with?

Since starting OMG, we have created three divisions. The first is our Animal Conservation Division, the second was our Environmental Conservation Division and our third is our Youth Empowerment Division.  Over the years we have created numerous campaigns to save endangered species.  We partnered with the folks at The Center for Biological Diversity and campaigned to get Rattlesnake Roundups in our state converted over to Wildlife Festivals, so people won’t kill snakes for no reason.  

We created a Rhino Letter Writing Campaign where we educated students around the world about rhino poaching and asked them to write letters to the President of South Africa.  We collected over 10,000 letters from around the world and then traveled back to South Africa where we hand delivered the letters to the Minister of Environmental Affairs.

We partnered with our friends at OCEANA and created a Sea Turtle Letter Writing Campaign where we educated students about the need to mandate the use of TED’s (Turtle Excluder Devices) in Shrimp Trawl nets to reduce the number of sea turtles that drown each year in shrimp nets.  We collected over 12,500 letters and then were invited to hand deliver the letters to the White House last June.

We are now running an Orangutan Letter Writing Campaign where we are educating students about the plight of orangutans and asking them to write letters to the President of Indonesia.  My brother and I are hoping to get a meeting with him next year, so we can deliver the thousands of letters as well.

We will also be launching a global Pangolin Awareness Campaign in Feb [NOTE: this Q&A was prior to February of this year] where we hope to educate students around the world about the need to save pangolins.  Did you know that pangolins are now considered the most poached and trafficked mammal on the planet?  Anyway, we are working with zoos’ in London, Atlanta GA and several other countries on getting our Pangolin Art Project launched.

On the Environmental Conservation front, we authored an award winning Plastic and Recycling Awareness Curriculum which is now available nationwide in the US and we are in the process of launching it in several countries.  We also recently launched our global OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign which asks people around the world to sign our online pledge promising not to use a single use plastic straw for 30-days.  So far we have over 2,500 pledges signed from people in over 30 countries and it is still growing.

With our Youth Empowerment division, we have worked with several homeless shelters in our community and partnered with the Children’s Restoration Network of Atlanta and hosted several Blanket Decoration Parties where we collect blankets for the homeless and get kids to decorate then before we deliver them to the homeless.  We also partner with local organizations and help coordinate the assembly of ‘Comfort Kits’, which are then delivered to the homeless in our community.  We just want other kids to see how easy and important it is to make a difference.

Does OMG work specifically with schools and if so how?

Yes we do, we love doing that.  If the schools are local, we will go to the school and share one of our educational outreach programs or help with their projects.  For schools outside of our area or even in other countries, we will provide them with the materials they need and often Skype with them to help them get started.

Who has helped with OMG’s outreach?  Has anyone famous been involved?

We have many partners that help us like The Captain Planet Foundation, The Ray C. Anderson Foundation and many more.  Every time we set out to launch a new campaign, we spend about six months reaching out to experts in the field and other organizations already working in that area, so we can team up with the folks who can help ensure our efforts have the most impact.

Tell us more about the OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign.  What do kids and teenagers need to do to get involved with it?

The OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign was created to make people aware about how many plastic straws are being used every single day.  Did you know that in America alone, we are using over 500-million single use plastic straws every single day and that none get recycled?  Sad isn’t it.  That is why we started the campaign.  90 percent of us could make it through the day without ever using a single use plastic straw.  If you absolutely have to have a straw, we suggest getting a reusable plastic straw.  Our family uses glass reusable drinking straws, they are great.  We have four in our car in case we go to a restaurant or drive through somewhere for a meal and simply tell them we don’t need a straw because we brought our own.

For people to get involved they can simply visit our OneLessStraw.org website and sign the pledge.  We also ask that they share what they have learned about the issue with everyone they know and help raise awareness about the need to reduce straws.  

It is so important that we educate the youth of the world about the problem.  Unfortunately, we youth are being brought up in a society that blindly accepts all the needless plastic packaging and plastic bags, bottles, cutlery and yes, even plastic straws without even thinking about the consequences.  The youth of today are very smart, and if we educate them about the issue, they will find a way to be the solution.  We want our OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign to be used in every school around the world.

There are many types of pollutants.  What made you think of plastic straws in particular for the OneLessStraw Pledge Campaign?

Straws are a major problem in the world and it is something that we can change if we all just reduce the amount of straws used.  Think about it, the daily usage of straws in America alone could fill up over 127 school busses every single day, and 100 percent of these straws are ending up in our environment where it will be there for hundreds of years.  Most of the plastic ends up in our waterways and oceans where animals mistake it for food, and they ingest it and die.  Saying no to plastic straws is an easy way to reduce our overall plastic footprint, and it will get people to start thinking of other ways they can help, like no longer using plastic bags or water bottles. 

In addition to OneLessStraw, what are some other ways that kids and teenagers can get involved at OMG?

We have lots of ways people can get involved, if you can’t find anything that interests you within one of our divisions (Animal Conservation, Environmental Conservation and Youth Empowerment), then we suggest you contact us and we will help you with whatever you are passionate about.  Making a difference in the world is easy, you just have to commit to wanting to be the solution to a problem and reach out to others who are already doing something and get involved.

You first began OMG in 2009.  What has continued to motivate you to keep OMG going?

Just working with animals made me want to keep working with animals.  As we learned that animals need a clean and safe place to live just like we do, we started getting involved in ways we could clean up the environment.  When you are ready to make a difference, it is easy to keep on going, no matter how huge the problem is.

Outside of OMG, have you gotten involved with any other outreaches or groups and if so which ones?   

We work with outreach programs all around the world; for instance we work with homeless groups in Atlanta in an effort to ‘Give Back’ in our own community, which has been so supportive of what we have been doing since starting OMG.  We did the same thing while in South Africa and even in Vietnam.  Wherever we are, we look for ways to help if we can.

What advice do you have for kids and teenagers who want to make a difference like you have?  What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start a nonprofit?

My advice for kids who want to make a difference is to “Go For It.”  They need to follow their dreams and make sure to tell everyone they know about their passions and to do it over and over until they finally hear you.  That is when you will start to get people to help you.

This is a bit of a follow up on the last question, but often people get discouraged from getting involved or become cynical about how much they can truly help (I’m only one person, nothing I do will be enough to make a difference, I’m just a kid, etc.).  What advice would you give to people who feel like this?

Even if you get discourage you should keep going and don’t let that get you down.  One of the biggest hurdles we have faced from the beginning and it still continues to this day is ‘Age Discrimination.’  Adults often look at us as being merely kids who probably don’t know enough to be getting involved in the issues we work on.  Don’t let that get you down.  Not all adults are like that, and often that reaction comes from their own insecurities about the fact that they have never spoken up and tried to tackle some of these problems.  Once they see that you are serious and knowledgeable about the issue, they eventually come around.  If you ever start to feel discouraged (and we have our days where that happens to us), we recommend reaching out to others already working in that space because they are always ready to help out anyone who is sincere about being the solution to the problem.  When I start to feel overwhelmed, I like to call our friend and OMG Board Member Asher Jay; she is the most positive and passionate person on the planet, and she always makes me smile.

Who has or have been your greatest inspiration(s)?

My greatest inspiration are my parents because they have always been there for us and help us with anything.  Asher is another one for the reasons I mentioned above.

The writer Goffinet McLaren wrote a book called “Sullie Saves the Seas” about a seagull that sees how polluted the oceans and beaches are and decides to make a difference.  Is this a book you’ve read and what do you think of it?  Do you think this book would be good for schools to use?

I have read this book, and I absolutely love it; I think that it should be mandatory for all schools to read it.  Sullie and his friends help people understand how their actions affect animals everywhere.  Mrs. Goffinet not only understands how bad the problem is, she also understands how to reach children of all ages, and that is why I think her book is so popular.  I think this book should be translated in Spanish and other languages, so kids around the world can learn from Sullie.