Skylar Fielder-Jones is a tiny six year-old from Southern Pines, North Carolina. But you’d be hard-pressed to describe her as such, we think, when you read what she did with a BIG idea she had last month to help wildlife affected by the Gulf oil spill.
It all started, as one might expect, as Skylar, whose favorite ocean playground is Myrtle Beach, viewed TV coverage of marine life swimming in oil last month. Then she saw the Dawn Dishsoap commercial that features volunteers cleaning oil from a baby penguin.
That was enough for this little engine that could become an activist to roar to life. Skylar rushed to her mother with her desire to wash the wildlife with “the blue dishsoap,” and knew if she asked, she would receive the help she needed.
“It was not very scary for me to help the animals and I knew if I asked, my mom would help me do it,” Skylar tells O4E.
For her mother, Kim Fielder-Jones, Skylar’s request was, perhaps, just a touch scarier.
“I took me awhile to understand what she was trying to tell me. All I could understand was that she was shipping our dish soap to the Gulf Coast. It took me a minute, because she was talking so fast and trying to show me the Dawn commerical on TV. Once I put two and two together, I was ready to do anything that she wanted me to do.”
And so the Fielder-Jones family got to work – with one condition – that Skylar herself lead the effort whenever she could, including being her own communications department, while Kim and the rest of the family backed her up behind the scenes. “I told her that she had to do all of the talking to the groups at her school, church, and anyone else to listen. She had make her posters and make sure that she thank everyone personally that donated. I was the taxi driver and the adult that spoke for her to other adults.”
So Skylar herself got up and spoke to her class at school, her church, and everyone she could to get donations and began collecting bottles of Dawn®, rubber gloves, paper towel rolls and toothbrushes – along with cash donations – to send to oil spill cleanup workers in the Gulf.
Then it was time for Kim to find somewhere to send it. Surely, BP would be graciously accepting any help they could get.
Not exactly. When Kim finally got ahold of a BP company representative, the reception was a bit…unenthusiastic. Kim was told by the representative that BP was handling everything and didn’t need her help.
”I think I was in total shock that someone on the other end of the line was being so abrasive,” Kim says. ” I called the volunteer line and thought I was taking all of the right steps in being able to help. I was so surprised when we were told that they did not want our help.”
Skylar minced fewer words: “”I felt, like, really sad when my mom talked to the lady on the phone, she told my mom that they did not need our help. I stopped and wanted to know what was wrong with them people.”
Kim and Skylar eventually did find help, in the form of Riverlink, a non-profit organization that works to revitalize the French Broad River in western North Carolina. Riverlink served as courier for the load, sending it to the Western North Carolina Nature Center for transport to the Gulf.
Skylar, family and friends with her motherload of dishsoap and supplies.
They’re still collecting, too: “Yes we are still collecting more, because we need to make a second trip - the spill is really really bad, says Skylar. ”I just saw two birds on TV that were very sick and sad from all the oil. I think one was dying, so I know I need to keep on working to help the animals with oil on them.” Riverlink received eight bags of supplies just yesterday, and Kim hopes they can duplicate the 80+ bottles of dishsoap, 30+ rolls of paper towel, countless toothbrushes, multitudes of rubber glove pairs and more than $300 in cash for the next load.
We asked Skylar how it feels to have so many adults listening to and taking her direction: “I feel different, but everyone is doing the right thing by helping me help the animals and the earth. I know it is better to give than to get. I feel really good about what I have done and I am really proud of myself. I can’t believe that I am doing this and adults are listening.”
And we had to ask both Skylar and Kim for their views on our country’s future in oil: “I would like for the United States to find another way to handle the oil that is not dangerous to us or to all of the animals,” says Skylar.
” I would love for our government to really step back and take charge in making sure that something like this will never happen again,” Kim echoes. ” They need to pay more attention to the oil companies and have more regulations that protect our environment.”
It can be daunting to figure out what to do when your little one has a big idea, but we like Kim and Sklyar’s family example that underscores the power of a child’s voice in ocean – and any – activism. We asked Kim for her advice to parents with kids who want to help:
I would advise them to listen to their children, and never shoot a child’s dream down. You may not think their idea is doable, but it is your job to support them while they try to accomplish what ever their goals maybe. Children learn best by watching those around them. If we continue to show respect for our oceans and earth, then they will grow up and respect them also. This huge project has brought the entire family closer. Kevin (Skylar’s dad), Skylar, Zoie (sister, 5), Zander (brother, 4), and I have bonded over this experience in a way that we have never experienced. We have always been a team of 5, but now we are all stronger as a family thanks to Skylar and her wonderful idea.
Tweet This Post