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Mar 10, 2020

Lincroft School Student Finley Elias Leads Fundraiser to Aid Koala Bears

By Les Pierce

The students and faculty of Lincroft Elementary show their support in Finley Elias’ T-shirts and sweatshirts. Elias is in the center of the front row holding a plush koala.

Australia has been ravaged by the most devastating wildfires experienced in decades. The fires began in late July, the state of New South Wales being the hardest hit, where more than 3,000 homes have been destroyed.

Wildlife in Australia has also suffered from the catastrophe. Koala bears have been highly impacted since they live in trees. It is estimated that thousands have perished.

Half a world away, Finley Elias, a fourth grade student at Lincroft Elementary School, has recognized the impact on the animals and has taken action to help. Elias has close ties to Australia, as her grandmother and two firefighter uncles reside there. She has visited several times and developed a fondness for koalas during her visits to the Billabong Zoo, where visitors are allowed to pet the animals.

Elias learned that the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, located close to the Billabong Zoo, was overwhelmed with injured bears arriving daily. She decided to raise money for the hospital.

Starting with just determination and creativity, she developed a logo depicting a koala in a tree with the word “Love.” The letter “L” served as the tree being hugged by the bear. The logo was used to adorn T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts and tote bags that were sold to obtain the needed funds.

“Lots of people and animals have been affected by the fires in Australia,” Elias said. “Lots of families lost everything when the fires went through their towns. It was a very scary time for some of my family waiting to see what direction the winds would take the fires next. Lots of poor, helpless animals did not have time to get away from the fires. Koalas live in trees and are not very fast, so could not run away from the fire. That’s what made me extra sad to see and inspired me to design a logo that I thought could help.”

The sale of the items started at Lincroft School, where the 10-year-old addressed the school population during the morning announcements over the PA system, explaining the plight of the bears and her solution.

“I am very proud of Finley,” stated Lincroft Elementary School Principal Dan Imbimbo. “It is truly amazing to see young people make such a difference in the world, to be willing to give so much of themselves, to have the self-confidence and courage to be a leader in their school and in the community. Finley’s accomplishment is amazing, but what makes our school so unique and special is that so many of our children have the same passion to shape their world. Currently students are organizing donations for local animal shelters, raising funds for children’s research hospitals, and looking for ways to make an impact in our town and state. The students and staff of Lincroft School have a shared vision for making our world a better place.”

Elias’s sister, Briella, and their mother, Katy, also became involved. Briella raised awareness at the Bayshore Middle School where she is a student. Katy Elias is a teacher at Monroe Township Middle, where she encountered an overwhelming response to the well-meaning venture.

A total of $17,000 was raised for the hospital, an amount far exceeding the expectations of the Elias family.

“I had no idea everyone would want to order my merch with a design that I made,” Finley said. “I feel so grateful for all of the support and really proud to see people wearing my design.”

Katy Elias added, “Finley’s act of kindness is something that my husband, Scott, and I couldn’t be more proud of. From her initial idea to help to the dedication she showed to seeing it through, we feel so proud of her caring heart.”