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Nonprofit providing free recycled crayons to children's hospitals expands operations

Founder of nonprofit that provides free crayons to hospitalized kids looks to grow operation
Founder of nonprofit that provides free crayons to hospitalized kids looks to grow operation 03:48

A Danville man who was a 2016 Jefferson Award winner says his nonprofit has kept 55 million crayons from ending up in landfills.

The magic of making crayons still brings Bryan Ware's life a splash of color.

"It was a little hobby to start with. It blew up pretty much overnight," he said.

For the last ten years, he has recycled donated used crayons to create new ones to deliver for free to children's hospitals for young patients to use in art therapy.

We first introduced you to Ware in 2016 when he had turned his family's Danville kitchen into a crayon factory.

He got the idea while dining out with his wife and kids. He discovered the restaurant crayons they use get thrown away for health reasons.

So he started melting down old crayons to fashion new ones. His nonprofit, the Crayon Initiative, was born.

"When you look back on how much we've accomplished, it's pretty cool to think it started with afour-pack of crayons we got at a restaurant."

Today, the Crayon Initiative operates out of its downtown Danville headquarters and a separate warehouse in Concord, no longer taking up space in Ware's home.

"We got our kitchen back. We don't have the smell of crayons in our house anymore," said Ware.

With the change in venue, crayon deliveries have exploded, from shipping free to 35 hospitals in 12 states to more than 260 children's hospitals in nearly every state.

In all, 734,000 children have received an 8-pack of new crayons since the nonprofit started.

"The goal is to keep growing to do a million packs a year," Ware declared.

That's not impossible. Right now, Bryan and his team are shipping at least 2,000 packs of crayons a week. They could do a lot more.

They're producing more efficiently using new ovens. Once volunteers sort the old crayons by color, they no longer have to painstakingly peel the paper wrapping off each crayon.

The hot oven air strains the wax as its melts. The paper wrappers fall off, get shredded and recycled, so there's no waste.

Executive director Jonathan Ziegler says Ware's vision is to expand beyond crayons to supply coloring books and art boxes in each hospital they serve.

"We're starting to get connected with the local communities in each of those areas. We'd like to do more outreach and service more children," Ziegler.

So the nonprofit is raising funds to cover rising shipping costs and -- hopefully -- hire some of its regular volunteers.

"t makes me feel good of what we're doing and accomplishing, but we need to do more. And we need to do bigger, better and faster at everything that we're doing," Ware said.

To do that, Ware will do what he does best: think outside of the crayon box.

This Saturday, August 12, the Crayon Initiative will host its big fundraiser, the Melt with You Music Festival in Danville at Madrid Ranch starting at noon.

The nonprofit is also starting a partnership with Staples, so people can drop off old crayons there and not have to pay mailing costs.

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