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Teens Respond to Gulf Oil Spill

Young people across the country are determined to help animals in the Gulf

  • Sisters Maria and Caitlyn Toth are collecting dish soap to help clean oiled wildlife. Toths

  • Meagan Bethel has gathered more than $2,000 in spare change for marine life affected by the oil spill. Bethel

  • Matt Pierce is selling these pelican t-shirts to raise money for animals in the Gulf coast region. Pierce

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has left many people feeling helpless. However, four teens from across the U.S. have dedicated their time and so far most of their summer to help raise money and supplies for wildlife on the coast.

Help Us Help Gulf Wildlife

Ohio sisters Maria, 13, and Caitlyn Toth, 16, felt that they could no longer just stand by and watch the news. Devastated by seeing pictures of birds stuck in oil, the Toth sisters decided to do something.

"We started a Facebook page to see how many people are interested in helping, and over a hundred members a day came in. We pass out fliers everywhere we go. We know it is affecting many people. Many people were hurt and some lost their lives, but we were devastated to see the animals too," the sisters told us.

Through their Facebook page, Help Us Help the Gulf Wildlife, the sisters have been collecting Dawn dish soap to send to The Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Florida, which is involved with rescuing oiled wildlife. So far they have collected more than 1,000 bottles toward their overall goal of 5,000.

"We have so many people and businesses across the country collecting for us. Right now we don't know exactly how much they have for sure but a lot of them told us they already have hundreds of bottles," said the Toths.

After seeing the girls' efforts on Facebook, Team Worldwide, an independent logistics company based in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, offered to bubble wrap and ship all the soap to the sanctuary free of charge.

Maria and Caitlyn hope that by taking action, they will motivate and encourage others to do so as well. "The Gulf needs hundreds of thousands of people to help, so if people see what we are doing and it makes them want to help then we are happy. We do want to thank everyone who has sent Dawn to us so far. We can't thank each person but we want everyone to know you are helping us make a difference."

Coins for the Coast

Meagan Bethel, 13, of Tuscan, Arizona, felt broken-hearted when she heard about the enormity of the Gulf oil spill and its impact on the environment. "So many animals and beaches and habitats are being destroyed because of this one disaster," said Meagan.

So, Meagan decided to use her friends and social networking to gather loose change from those in her community. Soon, checks and coin collections from all over the country started coming in.

"One man gave me his piggy bank that he had been putting coins into for years," Meagan remarked. "He just never had the heart to break it open. When we did it for him, it had over $300 in it for the animals!"

Since June, Coins for the Coast has collected more than $2,000, surpassing Meagan's original goal of $500. She plans to try and help all wildlife in the Gulf.

"My first large check went to help a wide variety of species, and my second large check went specifically to help birds," said Meagan. "I hope to gather enough funds for this next check to specifically help more marine life, such as the endangered turtles."

Teenagers Care

Matt Pierce, of Bradenton, Florida, and Stone Harbor, New Jersey, felt the need to do something about the Gulf oil spill after he shared a conversation about it with his dad. Matt started a non-profit called Teenagers Care to raise funds for animals affected by the oil.

"We have a local Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor that my brother Kevin has volunteered at and we see a lot of wildlife. We really felt we needed to do something about the oil-sickened animals in the Gulf," said Matt.

Teenagers Care is doing a variety of fundraisers, from selling lemonade and t-shirts to collecting donations. In the first two weeks of Teenagers Care, the organization raised more than $5,000.

"Facebook has been a great resource. In just 10 days we had over 300 fans and 156,000 impressions. Our website has received 25,637 hits from over 11 countries in 2 weeks," said Matt.

Matt hopes to eventually raise over $100,000 in the next few months. In the meantime, Matt wants everyone to know that what is happening in the Gulf is a serious issue. "BP just won't be able to handle it all and people need to realize that fact," he commented. "Louisiana alone has around 7,000 miles of very jagged coastline, not to mention the Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida coastland. BP will need the help of local organizations to find animals and nature in distress."

Read our full interviews with Maria, Caitlyn, Meagan, and Matt—plus more profiles of teens taking action for animals—at HumaneTeen.

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