Islip girl expands horizons to help birds hurt in oil spill

Olivia Bouler has always enjoyed painting birds, finding Olivia Bouler has always enjoyed painting birds, finding subjects during summers spent with her dad's family on Alabama's Gulf Coast. (June 15, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Olivia Bouler is diversifying her brand.

The 11-year-old artist-turned-activist, who appeared last night as a special guest on a Larry King fundraiser for victims of the Gulf Coast oil spill, is now selling a line of merchandise: T-shirts, tote bags, water bottles and bumper stickers graced with images of her avian renderings.

All proceeds from "Olivia's Birds" gear will go to charities working to rehabilitate injured birds and restore habitat threatened by the BP oil spill, said her mother, Nadine Bouler.

So far, Olivia's watercolors have raised more than $130,000.

The fifth-grader's campaign began two weeks after the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon when, heartbroken by the threat the gushing oil posed to birds on the Gulf Coast, she posted an offer on Facebook. She would paint a watercolor for anyone who donated to the National Audubon Society.

The project gained international attention, and received a boost from AOL, which kicked in $25,000 and on June 8 created a page highlighting Olivia's art and funneling donations to the Audubon Society.

Since the launch of that page, 1,858 people have donated a total of $103,000. AOL is now sending prints of Olivia's work to donors. Her new merchandise is being sold at Cafepress.com.

And Olivia's star continues to rise. Sunday, in her Islip bedroom, where stuffed toy birds peer down from wooden shelves, she posed for a People Magazine photo shoot.

Her Facebook page now boasts more than 24,000 fans.

And last night, she appeared live on CNN where she painted watercolors of several birds including a hummingbird, a chickadee and an Eastern Bluebird.

One of the paintings was auctioned online during the star-studded telethon featuring Justin Bieber, Cameron Diaz, Robert Redford and Sting. "Olivia is the special guest!" Nadine Bouler said Monday, before Olivia's saxophone lesson. "It's unbelievable. What a lesson it is for all of us."

Olivia will be honored Tuesday with a community service award at the Grade Five Moving Up Ceremony at Maud S. Sherwood Elementary School, district spokeswoman Deirdre Gilligan said.

The Bouler family is planning a trip next month to Washington, D.C., where they hope to meet with members of Congress to discuss legislation to promote renewable energy and reduce the country's reliance on oil - particularly offshore drilling.

Olivia's father, James Bouler, 48, is an architect who last year built a zero-carbon home in Oak Beach. He is scheduled to meet Friday with Islip Town officials, and said he will push them to create property tax incentives for homeowners to install solar panels and geothermal systems.

"It starts with the homeowner's pocketbook," he said, noting the steep upfront cost for many renewable energy projects. "Everyone would do it if it made sense financially."

You also may be interested in: