Luther College alum raises $255,000 for Ukrainian children

June 9, 2022

Luther College alum Karla (Sylling) Bloem ’94 is the founder and executive director of the International Owl Center in Houston, Minn. Each year, during the International Festival of Owls, the center hosts an international children’s owl art competition. Thousands of owl drawings, watercolors and pastels come in from all over the world and there is never a shortage of Ukrainian student submissions.

“When war broke out in Ukraine, we shared some images of the owl artwork created by children from Ukraine on our social media and in our e-newsletter, stating that we hoped the young artists were safe,” said Bloem. “We received a strong response from people who were so moved by the art, and many asked if they could purchase it.”

So, Bloem, along with volunteers and staff went into the archives and pulled out more than 300 pieces of Ukrainian art.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity to hold a fundraiser to support the kids, using their own artwork, and thus far we have hosted three overwhelmingly successful auctions that have left me speechless.

Karla (Sylling) Bloem '94

The Snowy Owl by 14-year-old Sofia Burevich

To date, more than $255,000 has been raised with all proceeds going to UNICEF to help the children of Ukraine. One piece of artwork, The Snowy Owl by 14-year-old Sofia Burevich, went for $8,005 alone!

“I am touched by how much people care and how generous and supportive they are. It feels wonderful to be part of something that can help in a pretty meaningful way,” said Bloem. “I also want to thank my staff and volunteers including Jayne Overstreet as well as Houston Area Community Foundation for helping me make this idea a reality.”

There are still two online auctions to go. They are planned for June 22-26 and August 10-14. According to Bloem, the limited-edition prints typically sell out one hour after the auction opens. To be notified of the auctions, people can sign up for the International Owl Center’s e-newsletter on their website, or visit the auction page at

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