Raising Money for the Gulf by Painting Birds

11-year-old Olivia Bouler paints birds to raise money for the Audubon Society.

What's happening in the Gulf is really a national tragedy and so many people all over the country want to help.

On Long Island, New York, of all places, we found a small sign of hope for the Gulf. Say hello to Olivia Bouler.

"A lot of people just want to sit there and say, 'Oh, it'll be fine, BP will do it,'" says Olivia. "No, that's not going to happen. BP made a huge mistake and I want to make up for that mistake."

Olivia decided to take matters into her own hands after she saw what was happening to the birds, reports CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman.

"It wasn't fair for them," she says. "They didn't do anything wrong."

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

She wrote this letter to the Audubon Society saying, "I am a decent drawer and I was wondering if I could sell some bird paintings and give the profits to your organization. I will do all in my strength to earn money. Signed Olivia, 11-years-old and willing to help."

Save the Gulf: Olivia's Bird Illustrations
Make a donation through Olivia's artist page

"And when a child says, '11-years-old and willing to help,' how can I as a parent not support that? How can I as an American not support that?" asked Olivia's mother, Nadine.

And how can we as a TV network not support that? Over the weekend, CBS News flew Olivia and her family to the Gulf coast. To help her get out her message - that we don't have to be hopeless bystanders in this tragedy - and to show exactly why it all matters so much to her.

"Early in her life she has always loved birds," says Olivia's grandfather.

Olivia spent many summers here at grandparents' cottage on the Alabama coast where she not only learned every species of bird but learned to appreciate them as well.

"They're very beautiful, elegant creatures," says Olivia.

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The only thing she likes more than watching birds is painting them. For the last few weeks she's been selling her watercolor paintings and prints on the internet. Sales started out slow but have come a long way.

"Far enough for me to feel flabbergasted," says Olivia.

Donations now total about $100,000.

"Somehow she has hit a chord," says her mother. "That somebody is still trying that she hasn't given up hope."

The Audubon Society plans to use the money for animal rescue and to establish a new bird habitat in the Gulf. And although Olivia feels good about that - she's clearly tortured by the fact that she can't do more. Just as we were leaving she found another oily feather.

"It's just not fair," says Olivia, crying.

A lot of artists paint from the heart - this one paints from a broken one.

"We will not give up," says Olivia's mother. "Look how far we've come so far."

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.