Last year, 9-year-old Siena Lopez and her father watched two documentaries that had a big impact on the little girl. One was about whales and dolphins dying at the hands of humans; the other told the story of orphan elephants in Africa. For Siena, the films sparked an idea — to start an organization to save endangered animals through art.
Siena’s parents helped her get the new nonprofit, which she called Helping the Wild, off the ground. Her mother, Nancy Lopez, executive director and founder of Trails & Vistas, helped Siena develop the organization’s mission. Siena’s father, Cesar Lopez, who is a web designer, helped her design the website, which includes games, a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and an online donations mechanism.
Every Friday, Siena and her mother held an art day for Helping the Wild at Glenshire Elementary. In lieu of going outside for recess, the 30 third, fourth, and fifth graders voluntarily gave up their recesses to participate in this program. Nancy organized the students and helped inspire them through making sculptures, mural paintings, and book reports about the animals that each of them chose to focus on for that week. Siena compiled all the paintings into a book, which includes facts about the animal, such as where it lives, what it eats, and why it’s endangered. (The book is featured on the website.)
Both Trails & Vistas and Measure A help pay for the art supplies. T-shirts are sold for a $10 donation; the children already donated $50 to the Truckee Donner Land Trust, and are hoping to adopt two orphaned elephants from Africa. The money they provide will contribute to the elephants’ food and care.
Siena and Nancy hope that Helping the Wild will raise enough money to adopt a different animal every year. They want to invite more people who have had first-hand knowledge with wild animals to speak to the children about their experiences. Plans for a future student art show are underway.
Siena, who wants to become a singer and dancer, will perform in the Trails & Vistas art hike this September with her father and twin brother, Tavio. The piece will be called “Wide Awake People;” details are being kept under wraps until performance day.
For more info or to donate, visit helpingthewild.org. Comment on this story below.