Brewton, Alabama is about as small-town as you can get. It's 20 miles from the nearest Interstate Highway and nestled in the piney, sandy hills of South Alabama. No one would have given it a second notice, until this little hero suffered not one, but two traumatic tragedies and had an idea:
BREWTON, Ala. --- One 9-year-old boy’s feelings of helplessness watching oil wash ashore at Orange Beach translated into artwork and then into an effort to raise money for Dauphin Island Sea Lab that has spread across the country as people donate to “Funds for Fishes.”
“The beach is a wonderful place,” said Lyon Jernigan, a fourth-grader at Brewton Elementary School. “The sand’s all around you and the ocean. Now we can’t swim or fish.”
Since Lyon became interested in painting and pottery a few years ago, he has attended the Eastern Shore Art Center’s programs in Fairhope, and recently completed a series of fish paintings.
“He has been very upset by the oil disaster,” Emmie Jernigan said recently, “and finally said he wanted to donate his fish paintings to sell to raise money. We started talking about it and decided to try to organize an auction.”
A friend in town came up with the name “Funds for Fishes,” and others began donating goods, services and artwork, Jernigan said.
In just a week, the effort grew and gained endorsements from people across the country, including San Diego artist and author Jan Phillips. Phillips leads conferences nationwide on creative thinking. She sent an e-mail asking dozens of artists to donate to the auction.
And the family was glad to have something positive. Just months ago the boys’ father was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer. They had planned to spend all the family time they could taking in the beach together — but then the oil arrived.
“Normally, we live at the beach all summer,” Emmie Jernigan said. “The day the oil started washing up, I started screaming at the boys, at everyone to clean it up. I know we weren’t supposed to touch it, but we were angry and wanted to do something.”
She said they scooped up tarballs for hours and cried over all the smallest creatures washing up dead along Old River. After awhile, they couldn’t keep up.
Anyone who would like to donate money can contact Jernigan at 251-363-0213 or mail items to P.O. Box 37, Brewton, AL 36427.
Checks should be made to Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Artists who wish to donate can send items to 1504 Belleville Ave., Brewton, AL 36426 through Aug. 16.
“This is a way we can all help,” Emmie Jernigan said, “and people from all over are getting involved. Art is the way to make things beautiful.
Geez... The kid's dad has an inoperable form of liver cancer, his family's favorite vacation destination was sloshed by oil and instead of feeling sorry for himself, he uses his God-given talent for art in a selfless and soon-to-be successful endeavor. Bravo, Lyon!
Nine-year olds (I know this because have one) in this day and age are all about Disney Channel, XBox and Webkins. This one is all about sacrifice and making a difference. If this is the future generation, then we have much to look forward to.
How awesome is this kid?
Gimme some feedback in the comments.