Eight-year-old Zion Micah Lee is translating his love for wild animals into colorful paintings that help protect them.
He is the founder of Team Rescue, which holds events and sells shirts and caps adorned with Zion’s artwork. Team Rescue partners with and donates to Napa Wildlife Rescue.
Zion wants the peregrine falcon, lion, peacock, bald eagle and other creatures he has painted to survive.
“I had a love for animals and to protecting them when I was younger – 5 or 6, maybe,” Zion said.
That love started with watching animal documentaries. Then Zion decided to paint animals and chose the peregrine falcon for his first effort. He launched Team Rescue last year.
To adults, three years might seem like a short time to pursue a passion. To Zion, it’s a third of his life. Team Rescue has messages he wants people to hear.
“It’s trying to say, ‘Stop poaching and killing animals that are wild,’” Zion said. “I want them to live.”
Team Rescue’s mission is spelled out on its website teamrescue.club – to be a universal awareness campaign for kids to rescue, save and protect animals and nature all around the world.
Zion’s mother, Julie Eppich, helps him with the venture. She sees some good life lessons that Zion can learn.
“How to take an idea and made it reality …. and at the same time be community-minded,” Eppich said.
The Team Rescue Facebook page shows Zion in action. There, he is manning a booth at a Napa Wildlife Rescue event, attending a Napa Chamber of Commerce event, chatting with a KVON radio interviewer and visiting the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County, where he spoke to the group’s board of directors.
“I just try to engage him in different situations where he can give the laptop presentation and talk,” Eppich said.
Napa Wildlife Rescue rehabilitates injured owls, eagles, hawks falcons, squirrels, deer, opossums and other creatures. One of the group’s goals is to make kids aware of and interested in nature and wildlife.
“Team Rescue starts them at a very early age,” said John Comisky, president of the Napa Wildlife Rescue board of directors.
Napa Wildlife Rescue and other local wildlife groups held a recent education event at the library. Zion and Team Rescue were there with a booth, reaching the younger audience.
Comisky laughed when asked if he ever thought an 8-year-old would want to partner with Napa Wildlife Rescue. He recalled how Zion last year made a presentation to the board of directors.
“None of us really knew what to expect,” Comisky said. “Zion did the whole presentation in front of a group of adults. He did the PowerPoint, went through it, did all the talking.”
People who become a member of Team Rescue pay a $5 fee. They receive a membership card and dog tag and can attend Team Rescue events, such as a guided hike at Sugarloaf State Park. Zion said the group has 81 members.
The effort to sell shirts and caps with Zion’s artwork helps fund donations to Napa Wildlife Rescue.
“Sometimes we give $100, sometimes $50,” Eppich said. “When we do events, it just can vary what our sales are.”
Eppich said the ultimate goal is for Team Rescue to form a board and become an official nonprofit group. That might happen in 2019.
Zion has plans for his own future as an adult, and they involve wildlife.
“I would want to be a park ranger, probably,” he said.