Saturday, February 11, 2012

MCII Volunteer outshines her adult counterparts

Missy, Lilly and Trent Tougas - Six degrees of separation
By Tania Ortega-Cowan

Friday, February 3, 2012

When ocean conservationist Sylvia Earle, TIME Magazine’s first-named “Hero for the Planet” (1998), gave her presentation last September at Juno Beach’s Loggerhead Marine’s Center’s 2011 Go Blue Awards banquet, she included in her visual presentation a photo of a cupcake.

“This might look like a cupcake to you,” she told the crowd, “but this cupcake means hope for the future because Lilly Tougas makes them for the planet and sells them for conservation.”

Missy and Lilly Tougas were finalists for the Blue Ambassador Award at the awards banquet. Sylvia Earle first heard about Lilly through internationally-famous conservation artist Wyland.

Lilly, a friend of Wyland, has spoken to Congress, traveled to China, raised funds to bring Wyland’s Mobile Learning Center to the Treasure Coast - the list goes on.

Oh! And Lilly is 11 years old.

“I just really always liked the earth and had compassion for everybody for as long as I can remember.” she says confidently.

Lilly’s mother Missy grew up just a mile from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. “As a child I was given a world ocean education, learning about aquaculture and ocean science. It was what we did for fun.”

Missy now volunteers with a number of groups including Ocean Rehab, Marine Clean-up Initiative and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. When Wyland came to Harbor Branch in 2007 for a youth art event, daughter Lilly met him and forged a friendship.

Missy says, “Lilly told him ‘I am with you on this mission!’ He then invited her to Sea World for a project. Next he invited her and only three other children from the United States to Beijing, China for his 100th Whaling Wall Project during the 2008 Olympics. He gave her a medal and said she is a Youth Ambassador for the Planet and told her to go home and take action.”

And so she did.

“You have to encourage children,” she says. “If they have ideas, you need to listen and empower their ideas.”

She decided to open a lemonade stand outside a grocery store, and as she made money, she would go in and buy the reusable grocery bags and then give them to her lemonade customers. Next, she designed art for the bags and sold them to raise money to go to Beijing. Then she started her Cupcakes for the Planet campaign to bring in Wyland’s Mobile Learning Center.

Wyland invited Lilly to Washington DC for a FOCUS event (Forests, Ocean, Climate and Us), a nationwide campaign in partnership with the U.S. Forestry Service, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the Wyland Foundation. There she spoke in front of Congress.

Lilly’s six-year old brother Trent is also involved. For his birthday party he held a beach clean-up. In fact, the family has organized numerous beach clean-ups including ‘The Mayor’s Beach Cleanups’ all along the Treasure Coast.

Involved with Vero Classical Ballet, Lilly’s new idea is “Dancing for the Planet.” With her connections, she plans to make it an international event.

You go, girl!

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