Christopher Ramos is only 10 years-old, but he’s on a mission to save the Everglades.
Already, his fund-raising and advocacy has landed him meetings with television personality Bill Nye the Science Guy, music legend Jimmy Buffett – and not to mention the president of the United States. All while he was in fourth grade at Vineland K-8 Center in the Kendall area.
Now Christopher is a year older and his passion is only growing. He has inspired his brothers – ages 8 and 12 – and dozens of other local kids to raise more than $7,000 on behalf of the Everglades Foundation, a non-profit working to restore the River of Grass.
“I’m just a crazy kid who’s great at getting my parents to listen to me,” Christopher said.
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It all started last year with a lesson in school about threatened and endangered species in the Everglades. A born animal-lover, Christopher learned that almost 70 mammals, birds and insects are on the list – from the Florida panther to the wood stork and Florida leafwing butterfly.
“That put a fire in his belly,” said Christopher’s dad, Paul Ramos.
After the lesson, Christopher came home and got on the family computer. He printed fliers with pictures of manatees, his home address and a plea to send money. He had already started enlisting his classmates, and planning car washes and bake sales when his dad stepped in.
“I said, ‘All right. Let’s turn this into a life lesson,’ ” Ramos said.
Together, they researched non-profits to pick one they would support. They settled on the Everglades Foundation. By coincidence, it was the same organization that developed the school lesson plan that got Christopher hooked.
“It’s what we want to see come out of this: that all kids understand and that they’re literate,” about the Everglades, said Jennifer Diaz, director of education at the foundation. “His tenacity is infectious, and at this age, it’s pretty rare for me to see.”
The Everglades literacy program, developed by teachers, is in schools across Florida. Implementing the program has been eye-opening, said Jennifer Diaz, director of education for the Foundation. It starts in kindergarten with simple lessons about identifying the animals of the Everglades.
“They can recognize arctic animals more fluidly than they can recognize Everglades animals,” Diaz said. “Many of them can recognize a ring-tailed lemur but few of them can recognize a panther.”
The Ramos boys, by contrast, can talk about conservation, red tide, orchid species and the need to act.
“We’re trying to raise money,” said 12-year old Paul Michael.
“To save the Everglades,” adds 8-year old Ryan. “And how it’s going to be saved is we donate so the Everglades Foundation can get this part of land...to take the bad water in the Everglades that’s killing the fish.”
Last year, Christopher and his dad organized a bike ride through Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. With the help of a few from his Boy Scout Troop, Christoper raised almost $4,000. That got him the attention of the superintendent of Everglades National Park, who invited Christopher and his dad to stand next to President Barack Obama when he visited the Everglades on Earth Day last year.
Christopher called the experience “crazy” since he’s only a kid.
“I just said, ‘Hello. I’m Chris. This is my dad,’” Christopher said. “I shook his hand.”
This year, Christopher is working with his brothers on a kayak outing on Florida Bay. Already, they’ve raised $3,400.
They’re calling their campaign “Ramos Boys Save the Everglades” and are spreading the message through their school’s morning announcements. With the help of their parents, the Ramos Boys have also launched their own website and social media page to raise money and awareness.
“We know it’s endangered,” said Ryan.
“While it’s endangered, it’s beautiful. It’s home to many different types of species only native to here,” added Paul Michael. “The more people that believe in this cause, the more people that can help.”
If you go
What: Ramos Boys Save the Everglades Charity Paddle. Each participant is asked to raise $200.
When: April 10
Where: Florida Bay Outfitters in Key Largo at Mile marker 103.3
To register: visit RamosBoysSaveTheEverglades.com