During the early summer of 2010, the McCracken family hit upon the idea of designing a T-shirt to raise money and awareness for marine life harmed by the ongoing BP oil spill, in part just to keep children Rory and Maeve occupied.
The latest recognition for Rory, 16, and Maeve McCracken, 11, was announced Monday. It’s the 2014 Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. Now in its 14th year, the award recognizes 25 young people nationwide, ages 8 to 18, who have made a significant difference in people and in the environment through service projects. The prize was founded in 2001 by author T.A. Barron and named for his mother, Gloria.
The McCracken children have already earned a Conservationist of the Year award from the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, a Coastal Stewardship award issued by the Coalition To Restore Coastal Louisiana, as well as the international conservation organization Oceana’s Hero Award in its youth category, beating out 300 other nominees.
The Barron Prize comes with money, $5,000, plus a still-to-be-named mentor for the children, “an adult who is passionate about and working in the winner’s area of interest.” Winners have to be nominated by someone who is not part of their family.
Parents Andy and Meghan McCracken have known for weeks but just told their kids Monday of the latest honor. The parents are both scuba divers and have passed along their love of the underwater environment, particularly the Gulf of Mexico, to their two children, who are both certified to dive.
The mother said the children will likely use the prize money to purchase additional copies of their book, raising even more money for BP disaster relief. One possible future activity is to create an artificial reef in the Gulf through a technology known as a Reef Ball, she said.
Meghan McCracken said the children have a wide range of interests at Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge, including several sports, but the marine world is an abiding interest.
When the family travels, there’s usually something to learn and water nearby. For instance, in a trip to the Florida Keys, the family met Louie, a bottlenose dolphin who was covered in oil emanating from the BP spill and who lives now in the Dolphin Research Center.
She said the family has followed the tangled aftermath of the BP spill and will on occasion discuss the latest news at the dinner table, but generally tries to “stay out of the politics of it.”
“We’ve got to find a balance between industry, what’s driving our economy and protecting what’s out there,” the mother said.