In 2011, Bryan Ware was enjoying his birthday dinner at a restaurant with his wife and two sons. He was watching his kids draw on the paper tablecloth with crayons their server had given them. A thought struck him.
“I wondered, ‘What happens to these crayons after we leave if we don’t take them with us?’” Ware, who lives in the San Francisco area, told The Mighty.
He later questioned a restaurant employee and was dismayed to learn that every crayon put out on the table had to be thrown away after the table’s customers left — whether it’d been used down to a nub or left completely untouched. Convinced the crayons’ lives didn’t have to end so early, Ware started taking restaurant crayons with him. He made it his mission to come up with a way to get the unwanted crayons into as many children’s hands as possible.
Two years later in 2013, Ware founded The Crayon Initiative, a nonprofit organization that repurposes old unusable crayon wax into new crayons and distributes them to children’s hospitals across California.
First, Ware collects old crayons from restaurants, schools and acquaintances. He separates them by color, melts down the wax and molds the melted wax into new crayons.
Next, Ware puts the melted wax into a one-of-a-kind crayon mold. The mold, which is large and triangular rather than small and circular, was specifically designed with help from an occupational therapist to be easier to grip for small children and kids with special needs.
The company then puts the new crayons in boxes and delivers them to children of all ages who are in the hospital for any reason.
So far, The Crayon Initiative has donated more than 2,000 boxes of crayons to children’s hospitals. In September 2015, Ware made his first out-of-state delivery to a hospital in New York City. He hopes The Crayon Initiative can continue to expand and bring crayons to kids in hospitals all over the country.
Ware also hopes these crayons can help children in hospitals express themselves artistically, continue normal childhood development and communicate through drawing what they may not be able to say verbally. But more than anything, he hopes he can play some part in making their hospital stays a little easier.
“From my perspective, the biggest goal is to give them an escape,” Ware told The Mighty. “I can’t even fathom what these kids are going through. If these crayons give them an escape from that hospital room for ten minutes, we did our job.”