Cheryl Taylor: A true friend of the Marmots!
Six marmots have a new "mother", thanks to a sixth grader from Comox.
And now, thousands of kids know about it. When Paige Whitehead was in Grade 4, she read about the plight of the Vancouver Island Marmot, which is on the verge of being extinct.
"I read an article in September (2002) about them getting eaten by wolves, and about how there were less than 100 of them left," she said. "I wanted to help. They looked really cute and they're right here by Mount Washington. "It's like, if something is gone forever, you can't get it back," she said.
"She shot up to the bedroom and wrote this passionate letter asking what she could do," said her mother, Cheryl Taylor. "Her comment was, 'how could we do that to them?'"
Although the letter never got sent to the Marmot Recovery Centre, the family discussed what they could do to perhaps adopt a marmot. "I started by baking cookies and selling them at my church," Paige said. "People were really supportive." Her Fiddle Diddle cookies were a hit; she sold some at a family friend's garage sale, and made more money than the adults - and had almost enough to adopt her first marmot.
Later that winter, she and her family decoupaged colorful paper onto Christmas decorations she found at the Salvation Army thrift shop, then sold 100 of them at "Fiesta" - a Comox Valley event featuring arts and crafts from developing countries. In all, Paige raised $720 and was able to adopt six marmots.
"The Adopt-a-Marmot Club is really cool," Paige wrote in her journal. "All the money I raise goes to feeding, housing and doing research on the marmots."
Paige's story was featured on the front cover and in a full-color "enviro-watch" feature in OWL magazine's April issue. The Marmot Recovery Foundation passed her name on to the children's magazine, and they sent a photographer to Paige's home. Writer Tanya Hamel assembled the four-page feature, which included pages from Paige's journal, the photos and lots of information on what marmots are and efforts to save the species.
Paige's work for the marmots gained her an invitation to a United Nations international children's conference in Victoria two years ago, and she has been invited to numerous schools in the Comox Valley to talk about marmots.
When the Marmot Recovery Centre opened at Mount Washington a couple of years ago, Paige received an invitation - and there is where she saw her first marmot for real, in the indoor habitat area.
Although Paige still keeps in touch with the marmots' progress at the Recovery Centre, she is not actively raising money to adopt more marmots. Her family has been busy raising money together to enable a child in Africa to continue his or her schooling.
For more information on the Marmot Recovery Centre or adopting a marmot, visit their Web site at www.marmots.org. and follow the "Adopt-a-Marmot" links.