Published Thursday, October 11, 2012
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Local environmental and animal welfare organization One More Generation is the happy owner of a free Toyota Sienna minivan, as part of Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good program.
One More Generation (OMG) was founded in 2007 by brother and sister Carter and Olivia Ries, who were 9 and 7 at the time.
The van has a custom graphic “wrap,” complete with a photo of Carter and Olivia with a cheetah in Africa.
A presentation of the keys ceremony was recently held at Toyota of Newnan. Cartoon environmental superhero Captain Planet was a special guest at the ceremony.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Walt Gutierrez, president of Toyota of Newnan, of OMG. Especially the fact the organization was founded by children so young. “I hope it’s contagious,” he said of their enthusiasm. And he hopes the van, with its distinctive appearance, will help inspire others.
Carter and Olivia founded OMG after participating in a cheetah adoption program in Africa. They asked their dad, Jim, why cheetahs needed to be adopted. He told them that without such programs, one day there might not be any more cheetahs.
“She started crying,” Carter said of his sister. “I said I wanted to make a difference.”
Their dad told them that when they were grown, they could start their own charity to help out, but they decided not to wait that long.
What started with cheetahs has taken on many facets. Carter, Olivia, and OMG couldn’t stand by during the Gulf oil spill in 2010. They collected supplies and delivered them to the Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle in New Orleans. It was there, while talking with scientists, they learned about the problem with plastic in our oceans. Plastic bags, six-pack containers, and similar plastics that end up in the ocean or on the beach cause serious threats to marine mammals and reptiles, as well as to birds.
One scientist there “said oil isn’t my problem — plastic is,” Carter said.
OMG has now developed a plastic awareness curriculum that it presents to other elementary schools, church groups, and various organizations. It also created the Plastic Awareness Collation, which now has some 70 organizations working together on the problem.
It’s also working to raise awareness of rhinoceros poaching. The animals are being hunted for their horn, which is prized in Asian medicine. OMG is hoping to collect 1,000 letters and drawings urging South African President Jacob Zuma to take action against poaching. If they get the letters, Olivia and Carter plan to hand-deliver them to President Zuma.
The 100 day 100 Cars for Good program began in May. Each day, a group of finalists was profiled on the program’s website, and the public voted for the non-profit they thought could do the most good with a new vehicle. At the end of each of the 100 days, the organization with the most votes received its choice of six Toyota models. Runners-up received $1,000.
Toyota of Newnan was chosen to present OMG’s new van because it is the local dealership for Fayetteville, where the Ries live. Toyota of Newnan decided to “wrap” the car.
“We are thrilled to be a part of the 100 Cars for Good program, and applaud One More Generation for the incredible work they have done,” Gutierrez said. “Toyota of Newnan has been a member of the Greater Atlanta area for six years, and we feel it’s our responsibility to give back to the community that has welcomed and supported us,” Gutierrez said. “Carter and Olivia are a true inspiration. We are honored to present such a worthy cause with the keys to a new Sienna.”
Since opening in 2006, Toyota of Newnan and its associates have made donations to and volunteered for local charities, including the Coweta Samaritan Clinic, Community Welcome House, Relay for Life, Youth Automotive Training Center, Coweta County Special Olympics, Summit Family YMCA, Meals on Wheels, The BYRD house and others.
“It is amazing to get a free car from Toyota, because you don’t just get a free car every day,” said Carter. “Getting a new car means we can deliver more supplies and we can get to more places like schools to teach about our plastic awareness curriculum. This has really been a great opportunity,” Carter said. “We are really thankful.”
For more information, visit www.onemoregeneration.org .