Exclusive! ISF Director Kim Klingler on the Foundation’s Focus and Ian Somerhalder’s BIG New Friend
When Ian Somerhalder isn’t playing Damon Salvatore on the CW hit The Vampire Diaries, you can often find him in some far-flung locale trying to save forests, jungles, animals, oceans, and, well, the world. To that end, he founded The Ian Somerhalder Foundation in order to work his huge following toward rejuvenating the planet. Wetpaint caught up with ISF Executive Director Kim Klingler to find out more. In our exclusive interview, Kim tells us about ISF’s latest projects, what it’s like to work with Ian and his fans, and about the gigantic new pal Ian recently made in Africa.
Wetpaint: How did the Foundation come about?
Kim Klingler: The inspiration has probably been there Ian’s whole life long, but what was the catalyst to kick it into full swing was the BP oil spill. Ian dropped everything he was doing and went down and helped out with a variety of organizations, speaking with people and learning about the real tragedy that was on the ground. From there I think Ian realized that he had the opportunity to reach out to a large, critical mass of people and work together to create positive change.
What is the organization's biggest focus right now?
The organization is an interesting body. It doesn’t have an absolute particular focus, but it does. It’s an interconnected web, so we focus on the environment and its creatures. They go hand-in-hand with each other. The main vehicle for it is youth. We’ve got a variety of ISF youth groups all over the world, either educating or spreading concepts and strategies for projects that they’re working on. Obviously, Ian’s got a strong youth audience and they just happen to be the most active audience out there. I’ve never seen anything like this group. They are so willing to roll up their sleeves, they so want to make a difference. They just didn’t have an outlet to connect them with other teens to do it together. And Ian’s provided that outlet with ISF. We’ve got more than 100 teen groups all over the world and 80 ISF kids groups for the elementary school ages.
How hands-on is Ian Somerhalder in the organization?
He is extremely hands on. A lot of people will watch Ian in interviews where he’s got a lot of passion and a lot of energy, but it’s really quite something to see Ian talk and think and strategize over his love of this foundation. He’s included in all of our processes; he’s included in dialogues, with the volunteers, with our corporate team. He’s keenly aware of what’s going on with our groups. This is his baby. This is his love. He is so extremely happy to have an opportunity to work with a larger group of people for betterment that he would not miss a heartbeat with this organization.
What makes this organization different from the other celeb-founded orgs?
The most remarkable thing about the growth of this organization that I haven’t seen in others that I’ve worked with is that it tends to start off with the youth. So you’ve got a young 16-year-old girl who wants to change the world and she may not have the skills or experience to pull off a larger project idea she might have, and what we’re finding is that through the kids we’re getting moms. And the moms are now becoming mentors to the young girls and then linking up with other moms and their girls and forming family pods that create teams of young women and mothers creating change projects for the benefit of the planet.
How has it felt to have the overwhelming support of the TVD family?
It’s really special. There’s no way to express our gratitude. They are not only loyal, they are so genuinely connected with the mission of the organization. They genuinely want to help, so it’s great that we have their support as a fan base. What’s even more important is how amazing that fan base truly is.
Are other TVD stars involved?
Not currently, but it would be a lovely thing to bring them into this and find ways to that we can not only work with them for ISF but also support their causes that they’re interested in. ISF has a lovely, diverse set of objectives. It would be delightful.
What are you working on currently?
A few things are evolving. One of them is a strong partnership with Conservation International. We’re looking at bringing in more of our ISF youth groups to learn more about deforestation. The other aspect that’s developing is we’re really, really intensely focusing on developing a tangible youth program to get that out for distribution. And it will be done through a variety of different channels who are partners, like Conservation.org. It will be a program that will enable children of any age to learn how to create change-making projects and go out and do them with ISF behind them.
The other exciting element is that we’re going to be hosting our first huge ISF event. It’s going to be a fundraiser and we’ve been teasing the fan base with little snippets about what it will be like. There will be two events — one that will meet the needs of, let’s say, 8- to 21-year-olds, and then an evening event that will definitely meet the needs of 21 and up. It will most likely be held in Chicago, and it will be held October 22. Once we release what the theme is, I think Chicago makes perfect sense. It’s going to be a celebration, not a standard fundraising gala. This event will be all fun. All fun.
Can you tell us about Ian’s recent trip to Africa?
We spent a week in Africa filming a documentary on land management with a gentleman named Allan Savory of Holistic Management. In the process, we ended up meeting an orphaned elephant named Dojiwae. They’ve been raising her for quite some time now. Dojiwae is 12 years old and she costs a fortune to feed and maintain. She came down every morning to have breakfast with us, and every morning Ian would get up with a big box of sugar cubes and feed her far too many. Eventually, after a couple of days, she gave him the honor of allowing him to ride her. That’s something we’ll be showing [on the ISF website] in the next couple of weeks. We’ve decided to start a campaign in her honor to help support her livelihood on the farm. People will be able to purchase little replicas of Dojiwae and that money will go to maintaining her livelihood.
How can TVD fans help the organization?
There’s always the wonderful option of donating and getting involved that way. But I think that the strongest presence that youth can bring to this table is to make their voices louder, to be heard. And they have that opportunity now by virtue of social media and linking together in groups to create projects and voicing their opinions and participating in petitions and whatnot. So really it comes down to being active and finding what you’re most impassioned over. The most predominant way that we’re connecting with new demographics is through Twitter. If you go and search any @ISF you will find hundreds of groups all over the world.
For more information or to donate, visit Isfoundation.com.