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Fourth Grader Inspired to Help Pelicans in the Gulf

Pennies for Pelicans

Ian Massons father, John, is a Coast Guard Reservist serving as a public affairs specialist in the Deepwater Horizon Response effort. Ian learned of the oiled pelicans from his mother and organized a campaign at his school called “Pennies for Pelicans” that raised a total of $445.

Masson family photo

Petty Officer  First Class, John Masson

Petty Officer First Class
John Masson - Ians father

U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Seaman Grace Baldwin


Donna Myers is serving as a public affairs specialist in the Deepwater Horizon Response. She works as a writer with the federal government in Los Angeles, Ca.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ian Masson, a precocious 10-year-old from Michigan who recently raised money to help rehabilitate pelicans impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Ians father is a U.S. Coast Guard reservist based in District 9 in Cleveland, Ohio, currently serving as a public affairs specialist in the Deepwater Horizon response. “I really like marine life,” Ian told me. “When I heard about the pelicans from my mom, I thought they could really use some help.” But realistically, what could a fourth grader do?

Inspired by the Box Tops for Education concept, where “people put box tops in a jar and count them, and the school gets money,” Ian requested permission from his principal to ask teachers to place jars in their classrooms to collect loose change. The principal gave him the green light, so Ian set about creating a poster with pictures of oiled pelicans to show people what’s happening in the Gulf and encouraging them to put money in the jars. But would they actually do it?

Ian’s entire school only has about 300 students, but his campaign raised $445. He sent the money to a non-profit organization with a history of cleaning and releasing seabirds caught in oil spills since 1971. Ians Pennies for Pelicans campaign requested donations to feed and rehabilitate brown pelicans, which can consume up to five pounds of fish each on a daily basis during their recovery period.

What’s more enduring is Ian’s newly-gained experience learning about a seemingly insurmountable problem and finding a way to contribute to its solution. He learned about the pelicans from his mom and wanted to help, like his dad. As a fourth grader, Ian couldn’t follow that particular path, but he applied the tools and life experience available to him and ultimately found a way to contribute. “I’m proud of the little guy,” his dad told me. And Ian’s proud of his dad, too. “I feel very glad that my dad is helping get the oil out of the Gulf as soon as possible,” Ian said. “But I do miss him.... but I’m glad he’s doing it.”