Walk into Inspirato Member Bryan Ware’s kitchen at his home in Danville, California, and you enter one of the most unexpected factories imaginable. There are pots of melted wax crayons in primary colors simmering on the stove near racks of new crayons cooling on any available space, and between all of it you’ll find Ware, his wife and their two children doing their best to live a normal life.
The chaos is all part of Ware’s nonprofit, The Crayon Initiative, which takes discarded crayons from restaurants, schools and homes and remanufactures them into boxes of eight thick crayons, which are distributed to children’s hospitals. The idea was born out of Ware’s desire to find some unique way to give back and a chance conversation with a server while out at a family dinner. Ware asked, “What happens to the crayons if we don’t take them with us?” He learned that any crayons put on the table, whether they’re used or not, have to be thrown out. “I figured there had to be something I could do with all those used crayons,” he says.
His original idea was to recycle crayons for schools to hand out, but then a friend at the University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital told him that child life programs at children’s hospitals could really use them, explaining that the counseling and therapy programs weren’t funded directly by the hospitals and that they struggled to get by on fundraising subsidies.
Ware reached out to several hospitals and found them receptive to the idea, assuming he could make a crayon suited to their needs. Working with an occupational therapist, Ware came back with an oversized, three-sided crayon that’s easy to grasp and won’t roll off the table. It’s also not wrapped in paper, since paper holds and spreads bacteria.
In May 2013, Ware launched The Crayon Initiative and demand was almost instant. Servers and bussers from other restaurants that handed out crayons heard about the program and tracked Ware down. From Ware’s kitchen the finished crayons have already found their way into children’s hands in more than a dozen children’s hospitals throughout California, New York and Utah.
Currently, Ware’s garage is bursting with bags and bags of used crayons waiting to be melted down while he manages a long waitlist of hospitals clamoring for the finished product. The holdup is Ware’s kitchen. “Supply and demand is not a problem,” he says. “Five more restaurants contacted me this morning before 9 a.m. ready to ship me their crayons. We just need funding to scale and move this operation out of my kitchen and garage. I have hundreds of volunteers willing and ready to help, but I have no space for them.”
Ware concedes that it’s a good problem to have, and now he’s focused on raising the funds to set up a self-sustaining operation, one he hopes can grow big enough to supply the hundreds of children’s hospitals and thousands of children’s clinics in community hospitals around the country. Ultimately, he wants The Crayon Initiative to become a global resource for children undergoing medical care.
“It’s a universal truth,” he says. “Opening a box of new crayons is a big deal for any child no matter where they’re from.”
BRYAN ON TRAVEL
Our first family trip to Cabo with Inspirato still ranks as one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken. We went with another family, and the whole experience forever changed our idea of family travel. Inspirato took care of everything: We had a chef come in to cook our meals, and we didn’t have to figure out where to go to eat. It was all about family time and having a base camp to spread out in and chill out.
Overall, we lean heavily toward beach destinations: Grand Cayman, Costa Rica—we’re dreaming of a day when Inspirato adds Australia and New Zealand to their destinations. I’ve been there once, but I’d love to take my kids back there with Inspirato.