"When I learned that we waste MORE gas than we would actually get out of the Refuge, I knew I had to do something."
Twelve-year-old Savannah Walters of Tampa, Fla., is fighting to save the Arctic wilderness by recruiting her peers to educate drivers to keep their tires inflated properly to conserve fuel.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Savannah: In the second grade, I founded Pump 'em Up when I learned Americans waste 4 million gallons of gas each day by driving on under-inflated tires.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Savannah: Pump 'em Up, Tampa, FL.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Savannah: My organization is a call to kids across the country to help educate their parents that the power to conserve fuel is in our own tires. Burning less gas means there is less air pollution in all our communities, AND we wouldn't need as much foreign oil.
What inspired you to get involved?
Savannah: My second-grade class studied the Arctic for six weeks, and I fell in love with it. We each picked a different animal to study, and I chose the gray wolf. Ever since I heard about plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge, I have been worried that this special place might be ruined. When I learned that we waste MORE gas than we would actually get out of the Refuge, I knew I had to do something.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Savannah: My mom helped me put together a flyer, a Web site, and my first Pump 'em Up event. I got my Brownie troop to help me put free tire gauges, donated by Sears and Goodyear, on all the cars in the train station parking lot outside New York City where I used to live.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Savannah: I meet so many kids who are willing to help and so many adults who are very supportive. Family and friends have drawn my logo, produced a public service announcement and helped their kids do Pump 'em Up events in their towns, just because they think what I'm doing is a great idea. It would have been really hard to do by myself, and I really appreciate all the help people have given me.
What is/was the hardest part?
Savannah: Having enough time to do my school work and activities and keep Pump 'em Up going. The more people that hear about it, the more work I have to do to help them get ready for their events. My new Web site will help because it will be interactive and people can get the information more easily.
What was the biggest surprise?
Savannah: I spent five days in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Alaska Wilderness League, to lobby my Florida legislators about the need to conserve fuel to clean up our air and preserve the Arctic Refuge. After returning home for two days, Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator John Kerry and Senator Joe Lieberman called me back to D.C. to join them in a Senate rally. I got to speak about my organization in the Capitol alongside these senators and I also got to introduce John Kerry. It was very exciting!
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Savannah: I learned that our government really is "our" government. You can go to Washington, D.C., and talk to your Congress people any time you want to. You just have to make an appointment, and then you can go and tell them any ideas you have. More kids should do that because it's our Earth that we need to protect.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Savannah: You have to really care about what you are doing because it takes a lot of time. But if you care, it's really worth it when you feel like you're making a difference.
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