11-Year-Old Fights to Save the Elephants

A fifth-grader started a project to save elephants in Thailand.

By Alex Stambaugh
|  Wednesday, Jun 18, 2014  |  Updated 5:57 PM EDT
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11-Year-Old Fights to Save the Elephants

They Deserve to be Free Project

Elephant statues available from the They Deserve to be Free Project, which benefits The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.

When fifth-grader Miriam Gardsbane received an elephant as a birthday gift -- or at least one to foster in Kenya at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust -- her love for elephants blossomed into the desire to save them.

“I felt really bad for elephants so I wanted to do something to help them,” she said.

The Rockville youth created the “They Deserve to be Free Elephant Project" last fall, and it has brought together friends, family and classmates at Sandy Spring Friends School in Sandy Spring, Maryland to create dozens of smaller, clay versions of her favorite endangered animal.

She said the group effort was not just to raise money to save the elephants, but also to increase community awareness about elephant abuse so “they all know what is happening.”

Her art teacher Kate Santorineos wrote in the school blog that Gardsbane wanted to make a difference.

“She decided that, though busy, though young, though very far away, though it would only be a drop in the bucket, though it was hard, and though it was too big of a problem, she had to try,” she said.

Each elephant is hand-sculpted, painted, glazed and sold to raise money for The Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, which rescues and provides sanctuary to abused elephants.

Instead of pricing her colorful creatures, she has asked for donations. Along with each elephant, donors receive a personal thank-you note.

“This elephant is a unique handcrafted piece of art. Designed and sculptured by one person, glazed by another,” reads the note. “Thanks to your purchase of this elephant, you are helping to provide a better life for abused elephants in Thailand, at the Elephant Nature Park. The Elephant Nature Park rescues abused elephants and allows them to live their life free in a sanctuary.”

Gardsbane has already raised over $1000 for the Elephant Nature Park. If you would like to purchase an elephant or donate to the fund, please contact theydeservetobefree@gmail.com or check out the Facebook page.

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