by Paula M. Riley
For months this spring, Evan Meadows, a fifth-grade Wyndmoor resident, was mesmerized by the images of the Gulf of Mexico. A compassionate kid who loves nature, Evan was devastated that so many animals were damaged by the oil spill.

“These are God’s creatures, I wanted to help them somehow,” Evan said.

In August, Evan saw a commercial featuring images of oil-soaked animals and the song, “We’re gonna wash away.” Dawn (dishwashing liquid) was advertising its commitment to donate $1 for every bottle of dish detergent purchased to the International Bird Rescue Research Center and the Marine Mammal Center in Florida. These funds will help the wildlife of the region affected by the oil spill.

After seeing the commercial, Evan asked his mother, Kathie Meadows, if they could go to the store to buy a bottle of Dawn. Instead, they headed to the computer and did some research together. What they found were photos and stories of the work done at Marine Mammal Center, the largest wildlife sanctuary in the country. They read an article about staff accepting bottles of Dawn to wash the birds, pelicans, penguins, and countless other species affected by the spill.

Soon Evan realized it was going to take more than buying just one bottle of Dawn. His mind started in motion up generating ideas.

“Mom,” he asked, “Do you think that UPS guy who is so nice would deliver Dawn bottles to the sanctuary if I could get kids at St. Gene’s to bring them in?” Thus, his project was born.

Together with his mother, he visited the UPS store at Market Square Shopping Center and Evan asked to speak to the manager, Alex Rodriguez.

“I have used UPS many times and have gotten to know Alex for his quick wit and dry sense of humor,” Kathie said. “Evan made his request and Alex got out his calculator.”

Rodriguez asked Evan if he realized that if every child brought in a bottle, Evan was asking him to ship over 500 lbs. of Dawn. Evan looked a little defeated and just said, “Wow, I didn’t know it would be that much.”

Alex looked at him in the eye for a minute without saying a word then slammed his hands down on the counter and said, “I’ll do it!”

For Rodriguez, it was an easy decision, “Evan is a doing such a good thing,” he said. “This goes beyond money – it was the right thing to do. If a young person wants to help others then he deserves all the help he can get!”

Knowing his had the support of Rodriguez, Evan came home and drafted a letter to the principal at St. Genevieve School, Sr. Theresa. She responded right way as though it would be the perfect service project for grades K-4 (the rest of the school had already committed to another service project with Covenant House).

Evan was the “guest speaker” at the first Student Council meeting where he presented his idea to the group for approval.

A Cub Scout who loves to play baseball, flag football and the trumpet, Evan holds a green belt in karate and already understands that his ideas are only as good as his ability to execute.

“All the students at St. Gene’s helped out by bringing in a bottle of Dawn,” Evan said, explaining that each homeroom hosted a collection box.

The campaign was a success. In a two-week collection, 158 bottles were donated.

“My best estimation is that these bottles will clean 895 pelicans,” Evan said.

His parents, Adam and Kathie, couldn’t be more proud.

“After seeing that commercial a lot of children may have said, ‘Wow, that’s really sad, I hope they get help,’” Kathie said. “It’s one thing to feel badly about a situation, it’s another to actually spearhead a campaign at school to actually make a difference treating the affected wildlife.”

Evan is thrilled with his success and reflected.

“Yes, I think it was a great project,” he said. “It will make animals happier because they will be safe and clean in their own habitat.”

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