CLARKS GREEN — After learning about the catastrophic bush fires in Australia and the thousands of koalas lost in the disaster, 6-year-old Penny Lane picked up her crayons and got to work.

“They can’t help themselves get out of the fire,” said the Clarks Summit Elementary School first grader. “They need our help. We need to rescue them and protect them.”

Experts estimate nearly half a billion animals have died in the fires since September, including about one-third of the koala population. From the basement of her Clarks Green home — more than 9,000 miles away — Penny began drawing pictures of her favorite animal this weekend.

With proof of a donation of $5 or more to an organization helping the koalas, the donor can receive one of Penny’s original drawings. Her mother, Katie Lane, posted Penny’s idea on Facebook on Sunday morning. By the end of the day, Penny had finished a dozen drawings, raising at least $100.

She starts by drawing a koala’s eyes, and then its nose. Then comes the head and body. After coloring, she finishes the drawing with a simple message, which her mom helped her spell: “Protect the koalas.”

“I saw the koalas becoming extinct,” Penny said. “I thought I could help.”

Penny’s efforts brought her mother to tears. Lane tries to teach her children, including Lucy, 5, and Jude, 2, the importance of giving back.

“If you see something is wrong, do what you can to fix it, no matter your circumstances,” Lane said. “When we’re bored, we try to do something helpful.”

After school Monday, Penny sat in a comfortable chair with a drink and snack and began to draw.

She had four more orders to finish before bedtime.

To order koala artwork, email Lane at

Editor’s note: Since this story appeared in The Times-Tribune on Tuesday, Penny has received another 30 requests for her koala artwork, generating at least $350 in donations to help rescue and rehabilitation efforts.