Do you remember how thrilling it was to peel back the lid of a crayon box and look down at a brand-new set? The smell, the colors, the feel of the shiny new wax?
Bryan Ware is giving that experience to children in need, free of charge.
Ware founded The Crayon Initiative, a non-profit organization that recycles old crayons into brand new ones. Otherwise unusable crayon wax is remelted, remolded, and donated to hospitals and schools across California, where The Crayon Initiative is based.
These crayons aren’t like a regular RoseArt set, though: The Crayon Initiative’s products are easy-to-use for children with special needs. They’re molded into a triangular shape, which encourages children to hold them in a “pincer grip.” Ware says this is the correct way to hold a writing implement.
“RoseArt and Crayola crayons…they’ve gotten thinner for the sake of cost-savings,” Ware says. “And it makes it harder for kids to hold.”
“We wanted to make a better crayon,” Ware says.
Ware worked with an occupational therapist to make sure that the design suited the needs of children with special needs, who may have a difficult time gripping thin, cylindrical crayons.
The triangular pencil is The Crayon Initiative’s “first model, from early 2014.”
“We launched with that shape from the beginning,” Ware says. He learned that restaurants throw away old crayons, since they carry germs and cannot be given to other children.
So Ware came up with a better plan: Why not recycle them instead?
Ware has a crayon factory set up in his home kitchen. In fact, while being interviewed, Ware was standing over a pot of what simply called “yellow.”
And though the project is based out of Ware’s home, all necessary precautions are taken to make sure The Crayon Initiative’s products meet all health and safety standards.
“We do a test in a lab to make sure that our crayons are safe,” Ware says. “The tests prove that all bacteria that comes in with the crayons is killed in the melting process.”
“We are on par–or better–than crayons that are bought in-store,” Ware says.
The Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA receives donations from The Crayon Initiative on a regular basis. Kellye Carroll, Director of the Chase Child Life Program, says that crayons are a way to connect and build rapport with young patients.
“Crayons are something you do not need to speak the same language [to use],” Carroll says.
“We have a lot of children who don’t speak English here. But you can hand them a box of crayons, and they know what that means.”
“[The shape is] wonderful from a physical therapy standpoint,” Carroll says of The Crayon Initiative’s design. “Kids get an informal education on how to hold a writing implement from these crayons”
Ware has visited some of the recipients of his crayons, including children at the Chase Child Life Program.
“We played in the playroom with the kids and did art projects,” Ware says.
“They love them. The parents love them. All good happy smiles,” he says.