Making a difference, one sock at a time.
For the last year, Will Gladstone has jumped feet first into his passion for saving a bird. Blue feet first, that is.
Gladstone, a 14-year-old resident of Arlington, and his younger brother Matthew, age 11, started the Blue Feet Foundation in April 2017. The effort is now going strong and making a global impact.
The foundation is dedicated to the preservation of the blue-footed booby bird, which lives in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. In recent decades, the brightly-colored bird has suffered a population decline on the island. That’s a fact the Gladstone brothers want to change.
“We were studying birds in fifth-grade science class and when I learned the population of the blue-footed booby in the Galapagos had declined by 60 percent, I wanted to help,” said Will.
The Gladstone brothers now sell blue socks with the image of a blue-footed booby on them through their foundation’s website store. The socks are $12.50 a pair in both kid and adult sizes. The funds the foundation collects from sales are donated to the Galapagos Conservancy for the scientific study of the population decline. Professor Dave Anderson of Wake Forest University, who is an expert on the blue-footed booby, leads the research efforts and has traveled to the Galapagos and study the decline. The hope is to continue to raise money so his research can continue.
“We hope we save them because they’re a special bird and everyone should get to experience them,” said Will. “They are not afraid of people and they dance to show off their bright blue feet.”
The birds, which, as the name indicates have beautiful blue feet, also live along a coastal section of northern Mexico that stretches to southern Peru. While that population is thriving, the small population on the Galapagos Islands has dropped off, worrying wildlife experts.
While the determination to help the bird population make a comeback was clear for the boys, opening the store and getting things off the ground did not have an easy start, according to Will.
“We almost gave up because we didn’t get any orders for three months,” he said. “Now it’s a lot of work because every day after school we have to come home and pack up orders. But we can’t stop because we’re doing so good.”
Indeed, now there seems to be no slowing down for the brothers and their blue socks. To date, they have sold 4,500 pairs of socks and raised more than $40,000 for research. Orders have arrived from all 50 states and 36 countries, a point of pride for the boys. “We get sent photos every day of people wearing our socks around the world,” said Will. “This week we got pictures from Mallorca and Australia. If you look at our Instagram, @thebluefeetfoundation, you’ll see pictures from everywhere: The Great Wall, Stonehenge, Eiffel Tower, Grand Canyon, Namibia, Indonesia, South Africa, Sweden, Japan, Russia, Patagonia, the Galápagos Islands, Korea, Norway and on and on. “
A quick glance at the Instagram account, where Will posts pictures and facts about the blue-footed booby, also finds the foundation has more than 13,500 followers, including some celebrities. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick poses with a pair.
The boys’ work has also caught the eye of environmental activists. Will was one of a few children from all over the world honored in Action For Nature’s 2018 International Eco-Hero Youth Awards.
The boys are hoping to each pair of socks takes them closer to their goal of bringing the Blue-Footed Booby population back up to previous levels. In their case, closing up shop will eventually spell success.
“My little brother hopes we go out of business because that means we saved the blue-footed booby.”