Ben Buller plays piano, basketball, and golf. He learned to fly fish two years ago and is an avid reader with a fondness for Harry Potter. But Ben didn’t want new basketball shoes, a tackle box, or Hogwarts gear for this 10th birthday. He wanted to help save the ocean.
Every year Ben forgoes birthday gifts in exchange for donations to a charity of his choice. Last year it was Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. In previous years he’s adopted a rhinoceros at the Dublin Zoo and bought school supplies for Native American children. This year, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego was the benefactor of Ben’s birthday wish. His 14 party guests helped raise $175 for SEAPLEX (Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition) research.
Born in Geneva, Ben and his family have lived all over Europe, including Brussels, Wiesbaden, and Dublin. He is currently a fifth grade student at the European School in Parma, Italy, where he has lived for the last four years. Ben was inspired to support SEAPLEX after learning about the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch in his ethics class.
“When we watched a video about the huge garbage pile in the ocean, I thought that the oceans were in danger and that my future descendants might never see a clean beach,” he said. “Somebody needs to find a way to fix this situation. On a Google search we found Scripps and though it was a good place to donate money because their work is so important.”
SEAPLEX scientists at Scripps are focused on answering critical scientific questions related to plastic pollution in the North Pacific Ocean Gyre, including how much plastic is accumulating, how it is distributed, and how it affects ocean life.
"I was touched and honored by Ben's donation,” said Scripps graduate student and SEAPLEX Chief Scientist Miriam Goldstein. “Ben's donation has made me even more determined to do the very best we can to understand the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean. We don't want to let him down!"
Ben's donation will be used by the SEAPLEX team for chemical analysis to determine the types of plastic particles from the North Pacific Ocean Gyre.
As a token of her thanks, Goldstein shipped a sample of plastic-filled seawater from the garbage patch to Ben’s class in Italy. The vial is both a visual aid for future lessons about ocean pollution and a reminder of the impact their support has made.
“I hope we can encourage lots of kids to have birthday parties like Ben’s,” said Ben’s mother Jennifer Buller. “He is indeed a special child who always is thinking of others and does the donation thing totally voluntarily. We are quite proud of him.”