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New mission: After raising money to help animals, La Jolla boy is now trying to stop the war in Ukraine

Sterling Neisz, 11, has been going around his La Jolla neighborhood collecting signatures to try to stop the war in Ukraine.
Sterling Neisz, 11, has been going door to door in his La Jolla neighborhood collecting signatures to try to stop the war in Ukraine.
(Jillian Wilson)

As many people of all ages struggle to help amid the devastation of the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, one La Jolla boy has jumped into action.

Sterling Neisz, 11, has been going door to door in his Soledad South neighborhood collecting signatures to try to stop the war.

“I knew that lots of people were doing something about it and I wanted to take a step up,” Sterling said.

As of March 29, he had collected more than 50 signatures toward his goal of 1,000. He said he plans to send the signatures to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Doubters will say it’s unlikely such a petition can do much to stop the war, but Sterling believes it’s worth a try.

“My hope is that he’s going to actually listen,” Sterling said, “and that he’s going to call off the war.”

Every morning during their spring break this week, the Stuart-Chaffoo children of Bird Rock have awakened bright and early to post a lemonade stand in front of their Camino de la Costa home to raise money for the branch of Doctors Without Borders working in Ukraine to assist those affected by the war following Russia’s invasion.

Sterling said he was motivated to act after learning about the war in his sixth-grade history class.

His mother, Jillian Wilson, said Sterling is “not one to sit on the sidelines” and has been saddened by the news about Ukraine.

“I knew that lots of people were doing something about it and I wanted to take a step up.”

— Sterling Neisz

This isn’t the first time Sterling has taken on an effort to make an impact on the world. In July 2020, months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, he saw a television commercial for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The commercial reminded viewers that animals were hurting during the pandemic, too.

“There were animals stranded and … starving to death,” Sterling said. The commercial requested help to care for them.

“I immediately wanted to start donating and I started a fundraiser to raise $1,000” for the ASPCA, Sterling said.

He “jumped off the couch and made his own ASPCA poster,” Wilson said, and he took it around his neighborhood on his scooter to raise awareness.

“He said, ‘I’m going to tell every person I see about the ASPCA,’” Wilson said. “The very first person he saw gave him $10; he didn’t even ask.”

Neighbors kept volunteering donations, and later Sterling made videos about his project that his mother posted on social media.

Within two weeks, Sterling collected more than $2,000.

He said he takes on these projects because “hundreds of people are helping and … if one more person helps out, it’ll make a big difference.”

“I feel like his big heart inspires so many people,” Wilson said.

Mark Heinze, Sterling’s history teacher at Muirlands Middle School, said Sterling “displays kindness toward other students, which is admirable.”

“When we discuss world history and ask for suggestions about how conflicts might have been resolved, Sterling seems to think of creative ways to settle disputes while trying to avoid violent outcomes,” Heinze added. “It’s nice to see a young man with a sense of caring and kindness at such a young age.”

To sign Sterling’s petition, email ejilliansterling@gmail.com.