Pemberville teen Isaac Douglass headed to Sumatra to commune with orangutans


BG Independent News

The fantastic worlds of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and others fictional heroes weren’t enough for the Isaac Douglass.

“I used to read a lot of fantasy books,” Douglass, 14, said. “I enjoyed having little adventures, and I wanted it to happen in real life.”

Two years ago the Pemberville teen returned from a Winter Jam concert with a brochure and an idea. He wanted to take a 30-day trip to Australia.

His parents, Shawn and Maria Douglass, weren’t ready for that, but as people who traveled themselves when they were young, they wanted their son to have the same opportunity.

“We want him to see the world as much bigger than the microcosm of Wood County,” his father said.

They found a shorter trip. So at 12 he ventured to Costa Rica where he helped build a road to a farm and painted the house the farmers lived in, and swam and hiked.

That’s what he did at 12, now at 14, Isaac is ready to venture further, to Sumatra and Bali. Like the trip to Costa Rica, this trip, offered by ARCC Programs, is both a service trip and a recreational venture.

The largest part of the 18-day trip will be working to restore orangutan habitat in Sumatra.

The orangutan is the most endangered primate in the world, Shawn Douglass said. Afterward the teens will venture to Bali for some surfing. Isaac will be leaving in late June.

Originally the family had looked at the trip, but decided it was financially prohibitive. Then the price was cut because they needed more teenage boys.

It was still a lot of money, Maria Douglass told her husband. “But it’s a great opportunity,” he replied.

The family has launched a GoFundMe campaign, to help cover the cost of the trip. (

Many of the young orangutans have been orphaned as the forest they live in are cut down. They are brought to a sanctuary where people try to save them.

Isaac said he’s interested in interacting with them. They share a lot of DNA with humans, he said.

That’s why he travels “to see all the different things going on outside our country.”

He said many of his peers have fears about travel. They hear about terrorist attacks or problems in other countries. But the headlines are not all there is, he said.

In Costa Rica, he and his compatriots lived without the conveniences they had back home, no washing machines or TVs. “When he came back he was very appreciative of everything he took granted before he went on the trip,” his father said.

“Hot showers,” Isaac interjected.

“And drinking water,” Shawn Douglass said, “just being able to drink it without worrying about getting sick.”

“Whatever hardships there were,” Isaac said, “were outweighed by everything I learned.”

Besides traveling, Isaac’s other passion is theater. He’ll be on stage as an understudy for Lionel and in the chorus for the Horizon Youth Theatre’s production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Cinderella,” a few days before he’s scheduled to fly off to Sumatra. (

He’s been performing with the youth troupe for a couple years now, starting with the 2016 Festival of Shorts, and then last year’s summer musical “Honk!” This season he acted in the Festival of Shorts again and “The Great Cross Country Race.”

Shawn Douglass said he and his wife, who were theater kids themselves, always encouraged him to try theater, but it wasn’t until his friends Thomas Long and Sophi Hachtel convinced him he should give it a try that he relented.

Isaac, who attended Montessori School of Bowling Green, for seventh and eighth grade, found he loved it. In a way it’s another way to bring the fantasies he reads about to life.

“It presents a story, and you can be whatever you want,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s possible. Say you want to be a dog, you can do that. Say you want to dance, you can do that.”

Isaac has also been involved in theater at Eastwood, where he’ll be a sophomore in fall, if his family’s request to transfer to Bowling Green doesn’t go through.

He’d like to join his friends in the BGHS drama program and work with Jo Beth Gonzalez.

Beyond that he wants to be a professional actor. “Acting is such a fun thing, and to do it as a job would be great.”