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East Bay Non-Profit Recycles Discarded Crayons For Hospitalized Children

DANVILLE (KPIX 5) -- Most colorful crayons handed out at restaurants get used a few times -- or in some cases -- only once before they are discarded. One Bay Area man is making sure that crayons from all over the country don't just go to waste.

"Most restaurants just throw them away, due to health reasons," Bryan Ware explained as he stacked trays of used crayons so that he and his volunteers could sort them by color.

Ware created The Crayon Initiative, a project that seeks to send crayons to kids in 35 hospitals in 12 states. Using his manufacturing expertise, Ware designed a way to give old crayons new life.

"It's not acceptable to just take it and reuse it. How can I take that and recycle it into something new that's meaningful to a new child?"

How does he do it? Several days a month Ware takes over the kitchen in his Danville home and melts the old crayons on several induction cooktops. He pours the wax into molds, cools it, and out come the colorful, revived crayons. In eight hours, Ware can produce about 4,000 crayons. His wife and sons help, too. Each box contains eight different colors.

At Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, Child Life Specialist Veronica Mejia says kids use the crayons for creative expression before and after surgery.

"We can do a lot of our assessments with kids by what they're coloring and what they're doing," Mejia said.

The crayons bring comfort to young patients like Meadow Farmer. The four-year-old and her mother have made countless visits from their Tuolumne County home to Packard Children's Hospital. She has suffered complications from a stem cell transplant to treat a relapse of leukemia. She is one of many young patients that benefit from Ware's crayons.

"It gives me a lot of joy to see her happy as well, so it helps uplift my mood when she's in a good mood," said her mother Erin Farmer.

Ware had a very simple answer when asked how it felt to see for himself the joy the crayons gave Farmer: "Awesome. Pretty special to watch."

Thousands of restaurants, schools, and people from all over the country send Ware their used crayons. In all, he says he's saved more than 30,000 pounds of crayons from the landfill, using them to produce 80,000 new crayons.

Ware is pleased with his progress so far but he wants to keep growing. He has outgrown his kitchen, and he's looking for a larger space in the Danville-San Ramon area where he can produce the crayons and where corporate supporters can help sort and pack them.

So for coming up with a "green" way to bring art therapy to children, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Bryan Ware.

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