Will Gladstone, 14, of Arlington, Massachusetts, an eighth-grader at The Fessenden School, has raised more than $60,000 by selling bright blue socks to help discover why the reproductive rate of an iconic blue-footed bird is declining on the Galapagos Islands. When Will became interested in birds three years ago in his science class, he learned that the population of blue-footed boobies on the islands had dropped almost 60 percent over the past 30 years. “I wanted to help it because it is such a special bird,” he said. “It has bright blue feet and dances to attract a mate. It is a symbol of the Galapagos, one of the most special places on Earth.” So he came up with a plan to sell blue socks with a booby logo to benefit the birds.
Will and his younger brother started The Blue Feet Foundation, and their father found a manufacturer to make the socks. Will then designed a website and began posting pictures and facts about the blue-footed birds on social media. For the first three months, the boys didn’t have a single order. “We almost gave up,” Will said. But then they figured out how to use social media more effectively to market their socks, which sell for $12.50 a pair. Today, much of Will’s time is spent filling orders and writing a personal thank you note to go with each one. He gives interviews to the media about his cause and promotes other environmental issues on his website. So far, Will’s foundation has sold more than 6,000 pairs of socks to people in 50 states and more than 40 countries. The proceeds are donated to the Galapagos Conservancy, which has hired an expert to solve the mystery of the blue-footed booby’s declining birthrate, and to the Charles Darwin Foundation.