If good deeds were measured in years, Tucsonan Meagan Bethel would be about 103.

Meagan Bethel, 13, is one amazing Tucson teen/submitted photo

Meagan Bethel, 13, loves animals - and helping them/submitted photo

In reality, she’s 13 – but her lengthy list of volunteer activities could put some adult resumes to shame.

Collecting spare change for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the latest in her litany of causes.

“I love animals and volunteer in several places, like the Reid Park Zoo and Sky Island, to learn and protect them already,” Meagan wrote in an e-mail.

The Doolen Middle School soon-to-be eighth grader also attached a five-page volunteer log that contained her past year’s activities. They range from acting in Alice in Wonderland and the Halloween show at Valley of the Moon to raising money to buy soft pet food for animals with teeth problems at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

“But I kept hearing about the oil spill and wondering when people were going to start showing more about the devastation to the ocean life and birds, but there has been very little shown so far.

“So I started going online and seeing what is happening. Well, you can imagine if tons of oil came down on top of our city. It would affect everything. For ocean life it is even worse. They cannot even come up to the top to get a breath of air without being covered by oil.

“And for the bottom dwellers and species that have less mobility, it is even worse. They can’t escape quickly. BP pours chemicals on top of the oil to thin it out but the result was that made it sink down so it did not show as much anymore but is now lying at the bottom of the ocean instead of the top. Great….”

Meagan began the Coins for the Coast collection Monday around 4 p.m. and, by Tuesday early afternoon, had $15 at the house as well as pledges from Scotland, Prague, Australia and across the nation.

“…from Hawaii all the way to New Jersey,” she writes, “and of course wonderful people here in town as well!”

And we thought good news doesn’t travel all that fast.

Good deeds – and love of animals – runs in the family.

Meagan’s sister, Liz Baker, who has graced past pages of the Tucson Citizen newspaper with her own litany of success stories, collected coins for Hurricane Katrina victims a few years back with grand results.

“Our living room was so covered in change we had to clean the carpets,” Meagan said.

Meagan thanks her sister for her influence. Baker, now in her early 20s and living in Scotland studying chimpanzees, was only 13 when she first became involved with the Jane Goodall Institute protecting primates.

Parents Kathleen and Bill Bethal are also involved in the Institute – and supporting their daughters’ various efforts. Mom’s and dad’s e-mail lists are helping spread word of Coins for the Coast all over the globe.

Meagan began her own animal research projects, mostly with big cats, in kindergarten.

Yes, kindergarten.

“I have always been passionate about animals, especially about protecting them,” Meagan said. She was especially concerned about the Macho B jaguar case, which is the reason she initially joined the Sky Island Alliance, and has a soft spot in her heart for vaquita, a rare species of porpoise in the Gulf of California.

“My dad and I were constantly going out exploring and trying to find animals – but not disturb them,” she said. Last year’s science project involved gathering data from remote sensing cameras hidden around several local areas to learn more about the region’s biodiversity.

“I even found mountain lions right near a well-used hiking path and lots of bobcats!”

Meagan’s own Winterhaven home is an animal heaven. Her current pets include cat Twilight, who pretty much lives under her arm, her sister’s cat Midnight, and Luna, a 140-pound Great Pyrenees she calls a “white ball of fluff.” Past pets have included fish, hamsters, tortoises, more dogs and even rats.

“But mostly I love to observe and study animals in the wild,” she said, and hopes to one day be a wildlife biologist. Well, she’s well on her way to a stellar resume – not to mention doing what she can for the animals to make our world a better place.

Meagan’s Coins for the Coast announcement:

I started a campaign that I call Coins for the Coast

I will come collect your jars of coins and spare change to help the marine life on the coast. Or, if you would prefer or live too far away, you can send a check for $5 instead!

As you know we are experiencing one of the worst environmental disasters of all time right off the Gulf coast. Oil-soaked creatures are now washing ashore daily.

If you can help me, please mail your spare change amount to:
Meagan Bethel
3247 N. Christmas Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85716

It is the marine life and birds that are most noticeably paying the highest price for this disaster. Even as soon after the spill as May 19, an estimated 14,499 marine animal lives were lost or severely affected by the oil spill (PATH: People Protecting Animals and Their Habitat, 2010).

And that is just the beginning as the oil, broken down by all the chemicals, now sinks to the bottom of the sea. Soon the affects will be seen on oysters, shrimp, mollusks, and other bottom dwellers.

We know that time is of the essence right now! We must begin getting the funds to the people who already helping to clean the animals and birds that wash ashore immediately.

Although BP claims they will eventually pay for all the cost of the clean up, we don’t know how long it will take for them to act, and for those funds to be distributed. Our wildlife needs the help now.

I will forward whatever amount we gather to three places directly involved in helping to clean and rescue the affected animals:
The Audubon Society
World Wildlife Federation
Tri-state Rescue and Research

Thank you for helping me!

Meagan Bethel, Age 13
Tucson, AZ


wb-logolilWhat do you think?

Did you break out a coin jar?

What causes are important to you?

Have you ever volunteered for anything?