First of all, Carter, 11, and Olivia, 9, Ries, founders of One More Generation (OMG), won’t be driving the car should they win Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good contest (http://bit.ly/Lv79SW). At least not until they are legal. The organization could use a new car though, at least according to their father, Jim, who shepherds the kids through a schedule filled to the brim with activities.
In addition to school work (both attended Fayette Montessori and will start at Rising Starr Montessori this fall), swimming lessons, soccer, art and playing musical instruments, the two siblings have been actively involved in volunteer work and community action for the past few years. It started when the Ries family adopted cheetahs in South Africa.
“We learned they would go extinct without help, so we wanted to make a difference,” Carter said. “When the Gulf oil spill occurred and we saw images of birds and sea turtles caked in oil, we asked our Dad ‘what are we doing about this problem?’”
The family collected supplies, everything from baby wipes, dishwashing liquid, trash cans, pet carrying cages and more, door to door for four months. On Olivia’s eighth birthday, they drove the supplies down to the Audubon Nature Institute in New Orleans which runs a Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Rescue center.
“On our last day there, we met a professor. She told the kids, ‘I’m impressed with what you are doing but what are you doing about the environment?’ I was ticked How much burden do you want to put on these kids?” Jim wondered. “She then told us it takes 6-8 weeks to rehab the turtles but where were they going to put them and also told the group about plastic pollution.”
Upon their return from the Gulf, Carter and Olivia started the Plastic Awareness Coalition, which has over 60 local, national and international member organizations. With the help of a retired principal from Boston, Mass., they created a week-long curriculum that can be brought into elementary school classrooms. The program has been done in over a dozen classrooms so far and OMG is currently seeking grants that could help it put it in even more. In addition to teaching students about recycling and precycling, a trailer is put out in front of the school for the week and all of the students are asked to bring in all of their plastic trash from home for the week. When Huddleston Elementary did the project, they collected 280 pounds of plastic trash in a week and created an art sculpture that was twice as long as a school bus.
Carter and Olivia continue to spread the word about Plastic Awareness and this involves a lot of road trips of various lengths. One day might see them speaking at Zoo Atlanta or the Georgia Aquarium, while other days may have them meeting state senators or city council members all over the state or Southeast.
One of the latest projects that the Ries’ have been involved in is GreenWell, a project Olivia started to grow organic food for animals. She has donated food to the aquarium and zoo and has collard greens and mustard greens growing for My Reptile Guys in Peachtree City. Olivia has also found a way to use styrofoam containers the aquarium receives fish in. She collects the containers and uses them for raised beds to grow her vegetables in.
Carter and Olivia, like any kids, are constantly moving and their passion for their work in the community, both locally and globally, is contagious. If you would like to help them, voting for them tomorrow in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good contest (http://bit.ly/Lv79SW) is a great way to do it. The family currently uses a 1994 Toyota Sienna van to travel to all of their appointments. It currently has 208,000 miles on it and just fits everything they pack when they go to teach their Plastic Awareness program. Visit the link today (http://bit.ly/Lv79SW) and you can take the pledge which will remind you to vote for them tomorrow. They will be up against four other non-profit organizations of similar size. If they win, they will be able to choose one of eight new Toyota vehicles to help their organization.
Whether the Ries’ will be traveling to soccer practice, play rehearsal or an aquarium or zoo to make a presentation, they will seemingly always be on the move and moving towards making an impact on the world. One also gets the sense they won’t be slowing down anytime soon, car or no car.