Go Inspire Go 50/50 Hero: 12-Year-Old Animal Rights Activist

Update (Oct. 20, 2015): I’m excited to share some updates from our Inspiring Hero from Florida, Thomas Ponce — see the “Ripples” section below.

Did you make any resolutions? If so, how is it going meeting those goals?

I choose not to make resolutions — instead, I make aspirations. Resolutions make me feel that I have not met expectations and that’s a very uninspiring way to start the year.

I like to put a positive spin on goal-making, by setting aspirations. I hope to inspire you to challenge yourself to aspire to new heights. Take you to the next level — YOU 2.0.

I strive to be more organized, which includes Go Inspire Go syndication, to be more deliberate with carving out time with loved ones and to be less serious and have “fun” with every aspect of my life.

Last year, I aspired to crowdfund and crowdsource Go Inspire Go stories. My team and I had an innovative and interactive goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states. It resulted in an extremely successful campaign, numerous blessings and new friendships. We traveled to New York, Florida, Arizona, Georgia and Southern California to meet heroes through the support of our viewers. Thank you to everyone who made this journey possible.

Please meet one of our “50/50” heroes,  Thomas Ponce from Florida. When I met Thomas in 2013, he was 12-years-old, going on 50-years-old. His wisdom, kindness and empathy for animals wows me. He has a special gift of inspiring people to protect animals through his infectious poise and passion. He’s the voice for creatures who can only meow, woof and (fill in your favorite animal sound here). Through his website, LobbyForAnimals.org, he teaches his global audience how to lobby for animal rights.

I was in awe after meeting this accomplished tween, who has the poise of a seasoned elected official and a heart of gold. You just want to do something, anything, after hearing him speak. Nearly everyone Thomas touches says they were inspired to take action by his message: “Don’t Just Dream of Change, Lobby for It!”

See how he inspired an animal rights lawyer in New York and lawmaker in Florida to help him help animals. Can we give him a high-five helping hand? (Or at least a high-five social media shout-out here?) His goal: to educate people with the power to improve and save the lives of animals.

12-Year-Old Animal Rights Activist

Who: Thomas Ponce
What: Educates and Inspires People to Speak Up for Animals via LobbyForAnimals.org
Where: Casselberry, Florida
Why: Discovered his passion at age 4, after Mother gave him a chicken nugget

The Catalyst

Courtesy: Thomas Ponce

Thomas Ponce, from Casselberry, Fla., discovered his passion for protecting animals at age 4. His inspiration? A chicken nugget. That’s when Thomas, while eating nuggets, asked his mom, Kim, what they were made from and she hesitantly told him, “Chickens.”

Thomas Ponce, from Casselberry, Fla., discovered his passion for protecting animals at age 4. His inspiration? A chicken nugget. That’s when Thomas, while eating nuggets, asked his mom, Kim, what they were made from and she hesitantly told him, “Chickens.”

“I made that two and two connection,” Thomas said. “You know a chicken was killed to make a chicken nugget. I just decided I didn’t want to contribute to that cruelty anymore,” explaining his impetus for animal advocacy.

The Act

Courtesy: Thomas Ponce

Thomas joined animal rights organizations and spent countless hours on the picket line — all in the name of educating about animal protection and inspiring people to do what they can to alleviate animal cruelty.

He took his passion for animal rights to the next level and is now teaching people how to lobby their politicians to protect animals through his website, www.lobbyforanimals.org.

When Thomas attended the National Animal Rights conference in Washington D.C., he met animal rights attorney Jessica Astrof.

“This young man raised his hand and asked us questions like, ‘I need to know how I can get funding for my organization,’ ” Astrof said. “I was shocked to see that he looked like he was only 10 or 11 years old.”

The Ripples

It’s hard not to be persuaded by Thomas’ infectious energy. His parents are now vegan. One former teacher says he no longer goes to the circus.

“I chose to be vegan because I choose to live a compassionate cruelty free life, not just because I don’t want to eat meat. I try my hardest to bring as little harm to any living being as possible and that message is important to me to get out,” Thomas said.

In 2013, Thomas presented research around shark finning to Florida State Senator David Simmons. The senator was inspired to draft a bill that would prohibit the possession, sale, trade, purchase, shipping, barter, exchange and distribution of shark fins. It is being reviewed by several committees.

Pollination Project grantee, 2013, given to “social change agents who seek to spread compassion in their communities and in the world for the benefit of all.” Invited to join the Pollination Project’s grant advisory board

FARM’s Young Animal Activist Award, Animal Rights 2013 National Conference, for “outstanding contribution for animal liberation before his 18th birthday”

Youth Activist of the Year Award, Barry University Law School’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, 2013, for “outstanding performance, lasting contribution, leadership and vision in his mission to improve the lives of sentient beings by example, education and lobbyist advocacy”

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, Distinguished Finalist, “honoring middle level and high school students for outstanding service to others at the local, state, and national level”▪ Jefferson Award for Public Service, two-time winner, “dedicated to activating and celebrating public service”

The President’s Volunteer Service Award, 2013-2014 (Gold Level in 2014)

Animal Hero Kids Kind To All award winner, 2013, “recognizing an individual under the age of 19, who has helped multiple species of animals – companion animals, farmed animals, or wildlife”

▪ Contributing author to the book, “Animal Hero Kids, Voices of the Voiceless

▪ Disney Dreamer and Doer award, 2015

▪ Writing an article for AV Magazine, a publication of the American Anti-Vivisection Society

▪ Received letters and certificates of recognition/appreciation from Senator Simmons, Florida State Representative Jason Brodeur as well as an official tribute from Rep. Brodeur

▪ Worked on Amendment 1, the FL Land and Water Initiative, with the League of Women Voters, making calls to constituents

▪ Thomas purchased legislative tracking software enabling him to get alerts on new legislation in real-time and is distributing a biweekly report listing all legislation pertaining to animal rights and the environment for all states. He provides links to the bills, summaries, last action, sponsors, etc. and recently has been in contact with law students to volunteer and help write letters for constituents to use for each bill listed (so people can just copy and paste them right into an email to send to their legislators). Thomas said he needs more volunteers!

Media coverage

Fins and Fluke Radio: “Interview With Activist Thomas Ponce”

One Green Planet: “8 Young Rockstar Activists Leading the Way for Animal Rights”

Awakin.org: “Thomas Ponce: Child Activist, Animal Rights Advocate”

ServiceSpace: “Reflections On The Awakin Call With Thomas Ponce”

The Thinking Vegan: “12 Year-Old Founder of Lobby For Animals: The Mozart of Animal Rights”

Ethical Magazine: “Entre Vista A Thomas Ponce”

Thomas’ hope is that everyone his story touches will do something, anything in the name of animal rights.

Thomas said he is available to help anyone wanting assistance with either their lobbying efforts or living a cruelty-free vegan life. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Facebook by sending a friend request to his personal page or liking his Lobby For Animals page.

In the words of Thomas Ponce, “Don’t Just Dream of Change, Lobby for It!”

What can YOU do?!

Take Action

1. Learn more and support Lobby For Animals (www.lobbyforanimals.org)

2. Be the change. Find legislative issues affecting animals in your state, county, city or local community. Call and write your lawmakers.

3. Do whatever is in your power to take action against animal cruelty, testing and abuse.

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For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

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