If you’ve spent any time on the hike and bike trail along Lady Bird Lake, you’ve probably seen her: a dark-haired 9-year-old girl walking. And walking and walking and walking.
Crosby Grace Kelly, who’ll start fourth grade this fall, is walking to raise money for and awareness of elephants killed for their ivory. It started when she overheard a conversation between her mom, Amy Kelly, and Rosie Plaia, CEO of the Different Rhythm Foundation that “promotes a positive-healing relationship between man and nature.”
“She said, ‘Mama, what can I do?’ And it went from there,” Amy Kelly said.
This girl is an animal lover. She has a small menagerie at home, including six chickens, two of which are named Wonder Woman and Rosa Parks. And when she commits to something, she’s all in. On a recent Sunday she walked close to 30 miles, from about 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Plaia accompanies her for safety; mom hangs back and passes out Walk for Elephants flyers, which direct potential donors to differentrhythm.org. Proceeds go to the Gallmann African Conservancy, which supports an anti-poaching squad founded in 1980.
Crosby takes a hydration pack. She takes frequent breaks. Amy drives her in from Fredericksburg and she walks. (Mom and girl live in Fredericksburg but they still consider themselves Austinites. Because Amy works as a nurse, most of Crosby’s walks are on the weekends.) When the July rains came, the downtown YMCA let her use the treadmills.
Via Different Rhythm’s site, social and convention media, Crosby has become something of a worldwide sensation.
“She’s being watched globally through social media,” said Plaia. “We have people in Kenya and Ireland talking about Crosby and Austin.”
And so the word gets out. A $20 donation feeds a ranger for three days. A $250 donation buys a Motorola handheld radio. A $100 donation allows a ranger to monitor elephants in the bush for a week.
Crosby aims to raise $10,000 and she raised half that in her first two weeks. After an initial wave of excitement, things have sort of plateaued.
But she’s still out there. Even when she’s tired. Without help, she says, the creatures could be extinct in a decade.
“It’s not the funnest thing to do,” she said, “but I just have to think about why I’m doing it.”