Tuesday, June 8, 2010

10-year-old New Yorker raises thousands of dollars for Gulf oil spill fight

By Casandra Andrews
June 08, 2010

MOBILE, Ala. -- Olivia Bouler, a fifth-grader from Islip, NY, has spent summers feeding dolphins from her family's Orange Beach pier, watching with delight as sea birds squawked overhead.

The 10-year-old burst into tears during dinner a few weeks back as her parents discussed how the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was affecting the wildlife she loves so much.

"When I heard about this I was very devastated and I wanted to do something to help," Olivia said. "I'm no James Audubon, but I can draw."

That night, she climbed the stairs to her room and crafted a letter to the National Audubon Society. She told them she wanted to donate money and asked their permission. The young artist, who will be 11 in a few weeks, included a striking drawing of a red cardinal. She signed the letter: "Olivia, 11 years old and willing to help."

Soon after, someone from the Audubon Society called to inquire about purchasing one of her drawings to hang at their Manhattan headquarters. They also discussed the best way for the Boulers to go about raising money for wildlife preserves in coastal Alabama and beyond.

After talking with her parents -- James, an architect who grew up in Alabama, and her mother, Nadine, an English teacher from New York -- Olivia decided to offer original watercolors of birds to raise money for several groups, including the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and the Weeks Bay Foundation.

Anyone who makes a donation to those groups or others, can email nadinebouler@hotmail.com to let them know. Olivia will then draw a bird, paint it, and mail it out.

On Mother's Day, Olivia called her grandmother, Monroeville resident Jane Bouler, and asked if she would buy a painting.

"When I found out the scope of what this one child was attempting to do -- I still can barely talk about it without a tremor in my voice," Jane Bouler said. "This child is doing what we all should be doing and she genuinely wants to help the birds."

Olivia said her affection for birds began when she was six, after receiving a book on the feathered creatures. When creating original artwork, Olivia seeks inspiration from Audubon books, she said, then draws pictures with an ebony pencil on thick watercolor paper. She uses paintbrushes to add thin layers of color to each piece.

"I'm going to do it as long as they need help," Olivia said.

The Boulers have mailed off about 25 drawings so far, Olivia said. Her father estimates his daughter's efforts have generated more than $2,500 and possibly as much as $4,000. It's hard to know for sure, he said, because the family isn't asking people to let them know how much they donate.

"We're getting letters from people all over the country," James Bouler said. "It's been really sweet. People are really touched by what she's trying to do."

Her parents created a Facebook fan page called "Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations" for their daughter's work. So far, nearly 400 people have joined the online group.

"I was only expecting people we knew to buy them," Olivia said, "but it really got around."

Olivia, her younger brother, and her father are traveling to Monroeville to visit her grandparents next week.

"I grew up swimming and fishing in the Gulf of Mexico," James Bouler said. "We go down at least twice a year so she's grown up really understanding how beautiful and how wonderful it is there."

When asked about times spent on the Alabama coast, Olivia's tone turned serious. "I was very devastated that it's being ruined right now," she said. "It's really sad. It's really mind boggling."

Donate to The Audubon Society, The Sierra Club, The Weeks Bay Foundation, The Mobile Bay Estuary Program or the National Wildlife Fund to help with Gulf recovery. Let the Boulers know by sending an email to nadinebouler@hotmail.com and they'll send you one of Olivia's drawings.

Lifetime Network to Honor Casi Callaway

By Press-Register staff
June 08, 2010, 10:38am

Lifetime Television Network will honor Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper, in the "Lifetime Celebrates Remarkable Women" series on Friday. Part of Lifetime's "Every Woman Counts" campaign, the series spotlights women who inspire and empower others to make a difference in their communities and the world, network leaders said.

Callaway was selected based on her leadership on the frontlines of the BP oil crisis, a Lifetime spokesman said in a news release.

"I'm honored that Lifetime chose me for its series on 'Remarkable Women,'" said Callaway. "This honor belongs as much to the inspiring people with whom I work every day as it does to me. The staff at Mobile Baykeeper, and all the folks that stepped forward to help respond to the BP oil disaster, are shining examples to our country of what team work, commitment and good, old-fashioned determination and hope can do for a community in crisis."

Callaway is a board member of the international organization Waterkeeper Alliance. As executive director of Mobile Baykeeper, Callaway is responsible for coordinating public education, community organizing, research and fundraising.

Mobile Baykeeper has more than 4,000 members and deals with issues such as sewage, air toxics, mercury exposure, permit violations, industrial growth and other public health protection issues. Callaway holds four gubernatorial appointments and serves on the boards of local, state and regional environmental organizations.

Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill disaster, Callaway has worked tirelessly with staff members, volunteers, elected officials and the public in a united effort to respond to, contain and clean up the ongoing spill, the network said.

Other "Remarkable Women" recognized by the series include Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton to currently unsung heroes like Doctors Without Borders "flying nurse" Rebecca Singer. The segment honoring Callaway will will also be available at this link.

Mobile Baykeeper was founded in 1997, and became a member of the international organization, Waterkeeper Alliance in 1999. As a well known environmental organization in the Gulf coast region, Mobile Baykeeper works on all environmental issues in the watershed that impact public health. In addition to helping the community deal with individual environmental concerns, Mobile Baykeeper works on local, regional, and national issues. One of its biggest successes to date has been in preventing an onshore or open loop LNG facility from entering the Mobile Bay area. In addition, Mobile Baykeeper has completed a Water Quality Monitoring Database, is a founding member of the Mobile County Air Quality Study, and helped found the Alabama Department of Environmental Management Reform Coalition. Mobile Baykeeper will continue to closely monitor this disaster and its impacts to the area with updates on the spill and any volunteer efforts required at its website at www.mobilebaykeeper.org.

Allen: Containment cap continuing to show promise

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The man heading the Obama administration's response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico said Tuesday that a newly-installed containment cap on the stricken BP rig is helping to limit the leak.

Speaking at a Washington briefing, Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard said that more than 14,800 barrels of oil have been kept out of Gulf waters in the last 24 hours. Allen told reporters the amount of oil kept from spilling into the Gulf "has climbed steadily" from the first day the containment cap was installed.

He also said officials will be meeting with BP to assess how well it is handling claims for relief from people hurt by the spill. Allen said the aim is "to see if we need to provide any oversight." He had said Monday BP was struggling to handle claims.

"Well, the answer is we're not comfortable with it," Allen said.

"Working claims is not something that's part of BP's organizational competence here - capacity - and they're relying on subcontractors to do this," he added. "It's our responsibility to make sure that's being done effectively in the best interests of the American people."

He also said his office would be dispatching people to each state took take a look at how BP was processing individual claims and business losses.

Allen responded tartly to a question about why more progress has not been made in taming the spill resulting from the April 20 explosion and fire.

"I have never said this is going well. We're throwing everything at it that we've got," he said in response to a question telephoned in to his briefing. "I've said time and time again that nothing good happens when oil is on the water." He called the accident a "catastrophe" for the region.