Alexander Fay, 18, of Richmond Hill has been named a semi-finalist in the 2008 Huggable Heroes search for his work protecting and preserving the Ogeechee River in Bryan County.
The RHHS senior is one of 120 young people worldwide recognized and honored by Build-A-Bear Workshop for demonstrating strong leadership to help make the world a better place.
"I started in the summer before my freshman year of high school," Fay said. "My father got started in Adopt-a-Stream but then we heard about the Adopt-a-Wetlands program, sponsored by the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service, which worked a lot better for the environment I live in."
Fay became a certified water analyst with the Adopt-A-Wetlands program, founded the river-watch group, "The Ogeechee Citizens Brigade," and adopted a site on the river near his home.
"I wanted to get involved because, for several years, I’ve been seeing trash wash back and forth and get beached up in the marshes in my neighborhood, so I decided to do something about it," he said.
Fay has also worked to improve water quality by building four oyster reefs with the Generating Enhanced Oyster Reefs in Georgia’s Inshore Areas Project (or Project GEORGIA). He documents the health of the river by conducting monthly water analyses and started the annual river cleanup through the Rivers Alive program in his neighborhood, which happens each September.
Fay said his recognition by the Huggable Heroes program came after a self nomination, requiring letters of recommendation and an essay about how he has been protecting the Ogeechee River.
"I feel that it’s very important for kids to volunteer in the community. You’re doing something valuable and you have fun at the same time. It’s a way to make a difference in the community and meet new people," Fay said. "There aren’t qualifications for becoming a volunteer, it’s about caring and giving. When you’re passionate about a cause, there are lots of ways to make the world a better place."
Fay said he’s seen improvements and the experience has created a lot of public awareness among his neighborhood. Through The Ogeechee Citizens Brigade, Fay said they’ve reported two instances of illegal alligator poaching, buffer stone violations, a fuel spill near his neighborhood and recorded a rare manatee sighting.
On April 17, the semi-finalists will be narrowed down to 31 finalists. Then, 12 Huggable Heroes will be selected to participate in a leadership symposium and be honored at ceremonies in Washington, D.C., in July.
"It would be exciting to be a grand prize winner, because a donation is also awarded to your cause," Fay said.
The 12 Huggable Heroes each receive $7,500 in the form of an educational scholarship and $2,500 from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Foundation to be donated to a charity of their choice.
Fay has grown up in Richmond Hill and currently lives in The Cove subdivision with his parents Robert and Naomi. He has been accepted at the University of Georgia and will major in biological engineering this fall. He said he plans on continuing to volunteer through his college career.
In 2004, Build-A-Bear Workshop launched the Huggable Heroes program, each year searching for and recognizing young people making a difference in their communities. Find out more about the program at www.buildabear.com.