My commitment to charitable activism began with – of all things — my daughter’s picky eating. There was only one restaurant where she would reliably eat a whole meal, a restaurant (like many) that provided each child with a box of four brand new crayons to play with during each visit.
We often lingered at that restaurant, and I soon started to notice that the barely used crayons from every table were being tossed in the trash after patrons would leave. At that time the news in Los Angeles was running stories on L. A. County’s innovative waste-reduction measures, and also (due to a looming teachers’ strike) on the fact that many elementary school teachers were forced to spend their personal earnings on classroom supplies.
These two things dovetailed in my mind, and as soon as we left the restaurant I started doing research. It turned out that restaurants in America throw away over 150 million crayons per year. These crayons are made of paraffin wax, which takes hundreds of years to decompose. I realized that my daughter was subliminally learning to be wasteful and environmentally destructive, while so many schools throughout America were struggling to buy school supplies. There had to be a better way.
I started locally, pairing schools together with restaurants that dispensed crayons to patrons, and it quickly became apparent that both sides derived great benefit from the arrangement. The restaurant owners had felt really guilty throwing away still-good crayons, yet hadn’t known what else to do with them; the schools, meanwhile, were delighted to receive thousands of free crayons every month. CrayonCollection.org was born.
The idea behind Crayon Collection led very naturally into my next endeavor: The Color Kindness Program. This program allows kids in well-served neighborhoods not only to collect and donate their crayons to underserved schools, but also to include notes of kindness and fellowship to go along with the crayons. The idea was to foster not just environmentalism and philanthropy, but also empathy and a feeling of connectedness between kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Once again, the idea took off, and it has recently expanded far beyond just bonding over crayons.
Cut to 2020 and a time like no other filled with anxiety and angst over this current pandemic. I was devastated several months ago when I saw that a beautiful young doctor in New York had taken her own life after a huge influx of tragic COVID-19 patients deluged her ER. I called the hospital where she worked and spoke to their public relations department, asking if there was anything we as the general public could do to support our frontline heroes. That sparked a conversation that led right back to the Crayon Collection’s Color Kindess Program. The woman from the hospital explained that hospital wards are often decorated with notes of gratitude from former patients, and that these kind notes offer a sense of uplifting solace and inspiration during the many difficult hours endured by medical workers.
On August 15, at 11am PST, we are creating a virtual gathering to write notes of inspiration and kindness together and send them to frontline heroes. Everyone is welcome to join the livestream that will be powered by Google Meets. The support we have so far received for this venture has been incredible: we now have Mattel, Inc., Penguin Random House, Thrive Global, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, the City of LA’s Mayor’s office, and CA Governor Newsom’s office behind us. In order to further engage our young supporters, we will be attempting to set our second Guinness World Record for most kindness notes uploaded to Instagram in 1 hour.
We are calling this event “The World’s Largest (virtual) Kindness Event.” It will be a wonderful hour where we can all say thank you to our heroes, and come together to give something back during this unprecedented and difficult time. We hope you will join us, and encourage participation by sharing the event with your family, friends, and co-workers. The event is free to everyone, and you can register for it here. On August 15, let’s all join together to support our front line workers and set a new world record for kindness!