Crayons for Sick Kids

June 5, 2018 Last Updated: June 5, 2018

When Bryan Ware’s family started talking about what they could do to give back, their conversation turned to the crayons their restaurant provided for young guests. That conversation turned into The Crayon Initiative, a non-profit that recycles unwanted and unused crayons, turns them into new crayons, and puts them into the hands of sick children in hospitals.

Kaitlyn, 8, is one of these children, and Joy is an adult volunteer who comes to work with her. Joy says the hospital, unsurprisingly, can be tough for Kaitlyn, because she’s missing out on social experiences with friends and at school. Instead, she’s stuck in bed dealing with the effects of chemotherapy, which makes her tired and limits the level of germ exposure that is safe. Because of this, Joy says, “I try to bring the fun to her.” And a pack of crayons, simple as it may seem, can certainly help.

The Danville non-profit began shipping crayons in 2013, but Bryan and his family had some logistics to work out before they could start shipping their crayons out. Their goal was not to simply give the children the old, used crayons, which they targeted because many restaurants will throw them away after a single use, but to make them new crayons from those used crayons.

They needed a mold with their agreed-upon 3-sided design. The triangular design was intended to help with dexterity, but, they say, “a great side-benefit is it won’t roll off the table in hospitals.” They also needed to figure out how to remove the paper covering before melting down the old crayons. Their ultimate answer to that conundrum? Don’t even try.

Once they had their system in place, they began making crayons, contacting hospitals, and shipping. They shipped 5,000 boxes in 2013, and doubled their numbers by 2016. Last year, they shipped 27,000 packages. Bryan says, “Now we are in 123 hospitals in 33 states. We are at 87,000 packs of crayons. We will be at over 100,000 packs in June.” Several hundred volunteers help them, and they say that their volunteers can make 8,000 to 10,000 crayons in a single afternoon. Despite working 50 to 60 hours per week on this project in addition to a day job, however, Bryan still asks, “How can we do more? How do we get [to] 200,000 [packs of crayons]? 300,000?”