Local push to save the bush

Senior’s idea to adopt a koala invites many to contribute


Olivia Oeth

A poster featuring one of the koalas up for adoption, Oxley “Kenny” Twinkles, hangs at the Scooter’s Coffee senior Olivia Oeth works at. Made by Oeth herself, it provides information on what her friends and co-workers have worked together to contribute for. “Olivia has always cared about the environment,” senior donor Logan Berggren said. “She’ll always find ways to help it in anyway she can.”

Emma Baker, Staff Reporter

Firefighters. Australians. And the girl behind the counter at Scooter’s Coffee in Omaha. What do they have in common? They all want to help save Australia’s famed cuddly critters—koalas.

Senior and Scooter’s employee Olivia Oeth has watched disheartened as fires have raged across Australia since the fall of last year. Within the 15.6 million acres of scorched and decimated ground, around half a billion animals have perished, including almost one-third of the koalas living in New South Wales. 

The devastation has been a popular yet somber topic among news reports and social networks. In fact, Twitter was how Oeth first got the idea to “adopt” a koala.

“I was on shift at work, and I was scrolling through Twitter with my coworkers,” Oeth said. “We saw a screenshot of a charity that sponsors koalas. We started it as a joke like, ‘What if we adopted a koala? That would be funny.’ And then we realized there are koalas that actually need to be sponsored and adopted.”

Oeth got to work. 

After discovering a koala’s adoption fee from the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital (hyperlink) would cost around $40 dollars, she quickly figured that five dollars each would be all it took for her eight coffee-making co-workers to pitch in to help a koala. Eager to aid the cute marsupials, her colleagues handed over their crisp Abe Lincolns in hopes that love and healing would be handed to their future koala.

“It’s really nice how everyone can come together and do something good,” Scooter’s employee Genny Lewis said. “Plus, I think it’s really cute that we can say we’ll have our own ‘store’ koala.”

Obvious cuteness aside, Oeth knew that this was really about contributing to solve a larger problem. The more money raised, the more help the koalas could receive. So, Oeth returned to social media, posting on her Instagram story that she and her Scooter’s coworkers were raising money for koalas. Suddenly, they went from being able to adopt one koala to three.

“I think it’s our responsibility to save them,” senior donor Logan Berggren said. “We are the ones causing climate change. We should be the ones helping the environment affected and that includes animals. I’m not there putting out the fires but donating towards the koalas is knowing I am benefiting in a small part.”

The small parts that add up to make a big difference have always been the things Oeth has pursued. It began long before she became Student Council president, started teaching French at elementary schools, hung out with Special Musicians or got involved with Justice and Diversity League.

“Ever since she was a little girl, Olivia has wanted to help whoever she saw in need,” her mother Anne Oeth said. “She would always ask to help people, and, if she saw someone on the corner, she would say we needed to give them money or buy them groceries. She’s always had a caring and loving nature about her.”

Therefore, the opportunity to adopt a koala was the perfect meshing of all things Olivia Oeth: friends, animals and service.

“I feel like this climate crisis is bringing a lot of things into perspective,” Oeth said. “It helps people realize how many different living species are affected by this. It unifies people and it makes me feel good that people want to help, although there is so much tragedy happening in the world.”

So much tragedy but also so much good can be uncovered when one takes a magnifying glass to the unassuming high schoolers working at places like Scooter’s Coffee—the ones like Oeth, bridging 9000 miles to make a difference.