At nine years old, Vienna Vitek may have been among the Conservancy’s youngest supporters. Now, seven years later, this wise-beyond-her-years 16-year-old has already raised more than $5,000 for the Conservancy’s work in Costa Rica – and she’s aiming to donate $5,000 more before she graduates high school.
“In 4th grade, we learned about the rainforest, and I got really into it. I was nine at the time, and I thought, ‘I can do something to help.’” And so began Vienna’s incredible practice of giving back.
In addition to being a young philanthropist, the Colorado native is also an artist and an entrepreneur.
Born into a family of artists, Vienna naturally began drawing pictures of the rainforest plants and animals that had piqued her interest in the classroom. With the help of a supportive grandmother, Vienna created stationary using her rainforest designs, and she began selling them for $10 a pack to friends, family and “anyone else who was interested.”
Over time, her stationary sales added up to more than $2,000 – no small sum for a 4th grader’s first fundraising effort!
The following year, Vienna presented a check to Conservancy staff in person during a family trip to Costa Rica. While there, the family traveled to the Osa Peninsula, where Vienna got the chance to see first-hand the area she was helping support through the Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre® program.
“It was incredible to see all the animals I had been drawing,” she remembers. “It was fun to actually be standing in this place that was so intriguing to me. It really brought it to life.”
Since then, Vienna has raised a total of more than $5,000 to help conserve the rainforest.
Now, she’s thinking even bigger.
Vienna hopes to raise another $5,000 for the Conservancy’s Costa Rica program before she graduates from high school.
She has expanded her artwork to include paintings and jewelry, and every time she sells a piece, she donates that money to the Conservancy. She also thinks about multiplying her effort and enlist others to support the Adopt an Acre® program.
She’s already convinced her best friend to join her. Together, the two recently held a community garage sale, soliciting donations from friends and neighbors. The sale was a success. The girls raised $1,500 and in the process set an example for what you can achieve – at any age – if you put your mind to it.
“I definitely think about getting other people involved,” she says. “If I can create a structure and get people interested in contributing their artwork, I think it could really go far. For me, it’s not about how good the art is or whether it’s going to sell. It’s about getting people involved. What the Conservancy does is so cool, I just want other people to know about it.”
Vienna plans to return to the Osa Peninsula next summer – this time as a volunteer.
“I want to see the amazing places I’ve been giving my money to for so many years. I want to experience it first-hand and really be a part of it.”
With so much curiosity, drive and determination at 16 years old, Vienna Vitek paints a picture for us of what it might look like if everyone gave just a little bit of themselves to make the world a better place.
And she reminds us that small actions can add up to big results.