Consumers can change the world one day at a time through youths' calendar sales


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Elliot Shelton, front row left, Gabe Shelton and Addison Buck; Riley Riggenbach, left rear row, Mackenzie Buck, Vinn Riggenbach, Justin Cole, Mark Adams and Sienna Shelton displayed their Roots & Shoots sign at a recent club meeting. Photo by Julie Cole

Wildfires are raging across Indonesia and they have not gone unnoticed in Suntree. A group of youngsters who formed a conservation group a year ago have expanded their local efforts worldwide to the protection of endangered orangutans whose habitat is disappearing from the illegal land clearing to make way for increased production of palm oil.

The Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots group will sell a special calendar, Primate Connections, showcasing primates to benefit the orangutans at the Suntree Master Homeowners Association booth at the Saturday, Jan. 9 Color Me Healthy 5K & Family Fitness Festival from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., after the 8 a.m. 5K. The youngsters debuted a video and presented information at the SMHA Dec. 12 holiday movie festival, also at Jack Mahon Park, at 7550 Spyglass Hill Road in Suntree.

Quest Elementary School fifth-grader Vinn Riggenbach has a message for consumers and charitable givers alike.

“We want people who use palm oil to know that it might make orangutans extinct because their habitat is being burned to produce it. We want them to buy the calendar and download the app that lets them know what products they might be using that have palm oil in them, and to let them know about products that use sustainable palm oil instead.”

Justin Cole started the Roots & Shoots club after meeting with conservation legend Jane Goodall, founder of the clubs. Through a connection made at Brevard Zoo, he contacted the producer of the calendars and convinced them to devote all the proceeds directly to the orangutan cause.

“They even contacted the Jane Goodall Institute and told them what we are doing,” Cole said of his hero. “Her Institute is helping too. They said it was all because of us.”

His mother, SMHS board member Julie Cole, said the local effort is making a global impact.

“Imagine that, just because this small group of children in our community had an idea and took action, the sales of this calendar all over the world are being directed to this cause, raising awareness and funds.”

Suntree resident Addison Buck, a third-grader at Freedom 7 Elementary School, was undaunted during a meeting at which fellow members Riley Riggenbach, Mackenzie Buck, Mark Adams, Gabe Shelton and Sienna Shelton brainstormed how to get the word out about their project.

“Don't forget, anyone can change the world.”

For more information or to purchase a calendar for $22 through the local Roots & Shoots club, go to primateconnections.com/calendar/r&s1.

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