DANVILLE; Calif. -- The Crayon Initiative aims to bring happiness to children and the environment by recycling used crayons into new ones.
The founder of the Crayon Initiative, Bryan Ware, was at dinner with his family for his 40th birthday. His family was discussing ways to give back to their community, especially in the arts.
During his family dinner, he was coloring with his children on the kid menus provided by the restaurant. He began to wonder what happened to all the used crayons after each meal.
Since 2015, the Crayon Initiative has diverted 50 million used crayons that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
The nonprofit receives crayon donations from schools, Girl Scout troops, and restaurants around the world.
"I just knew that it (used crayons) was a free resource and what can we do with them? After that night at the restaurant, I went to look up crayon recycling because I got to believe that somebody was doing this, how could it not be done," said Ware. "That is when the concept came to me about how we can melt these down and turn them into a new crayon again."
Ware started the crayon collection and melting process in his home kitchen and created 40,000 new crayons within the first year.
The Crayon Initiative hoped the nonprofit could provide crayons to schools in need of art supplies, but quickly pivoted to donating crayons to sick children in hospitals. Now, the nonprofit donated packs of crayons to 250 children hospitals in the U.S.
"Our crayons to the pediatric patients are more than just a crayon, it is an escape," said Ware. "It gives them a way to express or communicate what they're going through."
The nonprofit is able to operate through the kindness of community members who volunteer their time. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, The Crayon Initiative had up to 600 volunteers in a single month.
Volunteers sort crayons according to color, melt them in specialty-made ovens, and mold them into triangular shaped crayons so they won't roll off of hospital beds and tables.
During the on-going pandemic, volunteers operate in small pods of four to five people, two days a week. In 2020, The Crayon Initiative produced 130,000 packs of crayons for children's hospitals.
"We hear stories about how they (pediatric patients) keep their packs of crayons with them throughout their stay and take them home with them because that was their one good memory that they had at the hospital," said Ware. "I also receive notes from parents who have unfortunately lost their child saying thank you that this is the last time I saw my child smile."
To date, The Crayon Initiative has donated 560,000 packs of crayons to children's hospitals.
Shipping to 250 children's hospital across the country can be costly. To donate to The Crayon Initiative, visit their website.