Working Big Blue

Working Big Blue

Name of program: The Big Blue & You Foundation Inc.

Location: Miami

Founders: Daniell “Danni” Washington and Michelle Swaby-Smith

Founded: September 2008

Program target: Boys and girls ages 6 to 18 from all races with a primary focus on communities of color

Program mission: To inspire and empower today’s youth to become stewards of Earth and guardians of the oceans through service learning, visual arts, and media.

Annual cost to run program: Approximately $65,000 per year

How they receive funding: Contest and fellowship awards and small local grants from different agencies and organizations

Short-term goal: Create and build upon programs and events for children and their families focused on ocean conservation using art and media as the main platform of communication.

Long-term goal: Washington would like to develop, launch, and host a nationally syndicated television show for children about marine life.

Ever since she was in pig tails, marine biologist Daniell “Danni” Washington has been in love with the ocean–an interest supported and nurtured early on by her mother, Michelle Swaby-Smith, who remembers her 6-year-old declaring during a killer whale show at SeaWorld that she wanted to be a whale trainer when she grew up. Just a few years later, Washington won a competition to name a baby dolphin at the Miami Seaquarium and spent two days swimming with the friendly mammals. “It was wonderful,” recalls Washington’s mother. “This of course really fueled her fire to continue pursuing her passion.”

Washington attended the University of Miami, where she had lengthy internships with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at its Southeast Fisheries Science Center, and spent a year with the Pew Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, both in Virginia Key, Florida. She graduated in 2008 and just a few weeks later entered Roxy Surfwear’s Follow Your Heart Tour contest during which she expressed interest in creating a television show for kids about ocean conservation. Washington won and used the $10,000 prize money to create The Big Blue & You Foundation ( in September 2008.

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