Cameron Carver's fascination with cheetahs started years ago.
He drew pictures and wrote stories about them in kindergarten. On his seventh birthday he asked that family donate to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., instead of buying him presents.
"I liked cheetahs and their agility, their speed and their quickness. When I found out they were the fastest land mammal in the world, I just fell in love with them," said Cameron, now 11.
"Then when I found out they were endangered, I wanted to do something about it."
Cameron's family had turned to the Internet to learn more about the magnificat cat, but the websites they found clearly aimed at adults.
That inspired them to start their own three years ago.
Called Cheetah Kids, their website is packed with easy-to-read facts, puzzles, games, and stories along with colorful photos and videos (for instance, you can watch and hear a cheetah chirp to communicate).
Parents John and Jody Carver, who are filmmakers, and sister Kristen, 8, continue to help Cameron think of ways to improve and add to the site.
Kids can also contribute to the website by submitting drawings of cheetahs for possible postings. To date, John Carver said they have received more than 50.
"Cameron was tracking them on a map. It ranged from Florida to Virginia - all up and down the Eastern seaboard to Hawaii."
A central part of this celebration of all things cheetah is the recognition that fewer than 12,000 of these cats remain in this world, for varied reasons including reduced habitat.
In December, Cheetah Kids became a Tucson-based non-profit organized for educational and fund raising to benefit endangered species, specifically cheetahs.
In this, the family has developed a close relationship with the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a nonprofit based in Namibia. Proceeds from T-shirts and other items sold on the Cheetah Kids website benefit the CCF.
To date, Cheetah Kids has raised about $3,000 for the fund.
On Monday, Cheetah Kids is hosting "Wild About Cheetahs," a benefit for the CCF held in partnership with the Reid Park Zoo and the Tucson chapter of the Arizona Association of Zookeepers, Jody Carver said.
There will be music, food and a silent auction with items donated by local merchants that fit the evening's theme.
The main event is a presentation by CCF founder Laurie Marker, who is considered "the world's foremost expert on cheetah biology and an innovator in strategies that build local support for wildlife protection and habitat restoration."
That's according to the write up she received in winning the 2010 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement at the University of Southern California, which she's accepting this week.
On Sunday Marker will be in Phoenix for the Run for the Cheetah 5K, a benefit for the CCF, and then come to Tucson to stay with the Carvers.
Cameron plans to interview the renown researcher and then post the videos online.
"We're going to start doing a lot more films to help educate people more," Cameron said.
If you go
• What: Wild About Cheetahs - an evening with Laurie Marker. African music, food, silent auction and a presentation by Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
• When: 5:30 p.m Monday.
• Where: Conservation Learning Center at the Reid Park Zoo, 995 S. Lake Shore Lane (enter off East 22 Street).
• Cost: $10.
• What: Run For the Cheetah 5K, benefit to support the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
• When: 7:30 a.m. Sunday (6:30 a.m. registration).
• Where: Ramadas 9 & 10 at Papago Park by the Phoenix Zoo, 455 N. Galvin Parkway.
• Cost: $25 includes commemorative T-shirt.
• Register: www.runforthe cheetah.org