One day last year, Miles Fetherston-Resch was watching the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week when he decided he wanted to donate the money in his piggy bank — all $13 of it — to ocean conservancy.
He was 6 at the time. And as with all declarations by boys that age, his moms, Jess and Libby Fetherston-Resch, didn’t quite know how to react.
“It’s hard to know how serious to take a 6-year-old who changes what he wants to eat every five minutes,” Jess said. “So it was hard to go all-in on it.”
But go all-in they did. They helped Miles launch Kids Saving Oceans, a group that’s become a regular presence at St. Petersburg markets and festivals like the Indie Flea and Localtopia. Miles has spoken about the group’s mission everywhere from the St. Petersburg City Council to the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in Washington, D.C.
To date, he’s raised more than $13,000 for sea life charities. His goal: $1 million by the time he turns 18.
While Libby also works in marine life conservation, she and Jess, who works for a health care technology company, wanted to keep Miles at the forefront of Kids Saving Oceans. They prefer to work behind the scenes, handling all the grownup stuff: filling out grant applications, building out his website, carting around tubs of T-shirts.
As they help Miles find his voice, they temper their support with caution for his well-being. They’re vigilant about making sure he still feels connected to his work, as well as protecting him from the sort of vitriol directed at teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.
“We ask him probably once a month, ‘Is this still something you want to do?’" Jess said. "We don’t want him to feel any pressure to continue with his endeavors. But it’s been really neat to see him grow and allow us to be a part of it.”
“As he grows and evolves and changes his advocacy interests, as he learns more, it will get more challenging,” Libby said. “Seven-year-old boys don’t always stay on message. And we’ll evolve as he evolves.”
That’s been the case lately, as they’ve had to halt Miles’ appearances with Kids Saving Oceans due to social distancing. Instead, Jess and Libby have helped him focus on being a kid. He just learned to ride a bike, and when all this is over, he wants to organize a bike rally for kids his age.
“Like, ‘If you were bored from social distancing, call this number, blah-blah-blah, whatever,’” he said, turning to Libby. “We could put posters around the neighborhood. They could say, If you know how to ride your bike, bring it.”
“This may give you some insight into how Kids Saving Oceans happened,” Jess said. “Just like that: ‘And then we do this, and then this, and then that ...’”
As long as their son wants to try it, they’ll help him.