Of late there have been numerous stories about charitable and non-profit organizations that are failing those that they are meant to be helping. This increase in attention was spurred by the revelations from the Clinton Foundation and it’s meager charitable spending. At the same time, concern continues to mount about the number of new businesses being created – a figure that has been in decline for 6 years. This gloomy outlook is being countered by Blue Crayonz, Inc.
Blue Crayonz, is a non-profit organization, created December 2014, that is seeking to buck the apparent trends. Blue Crayonz helps connect parents of, and children with, autism to other organizations, services, and events. More than a mere directory service, Blue Crayonz seeks to provide direct support to parents and schools in addressing the challenges of autism.
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological disorder that affects the development of the brain. It can result in a varying range of degrees of difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Estimates are that some 17% of the population may be affected by some degree of Autism, and these figures have increased over the past 20 years. Currently there is no known cause, or cure, though research is on-going. The estimate of children affected by autism for 2014 is 1.5% of the population, an increase of 30% since 2012.
The need for parents with children that have autism is a growing demand. Social stigma and a lack of understanding among the general populace often can create an atmosphere that leaves families feeling isolated and with few options. As only slightly touched upon by the movie Rain Man, the answer in the past was often to hide the situation. But organizations like Blue Crayonz seeks to change this stigma and oppression.
On May 21, 2015, we had the opportunity to speak with Veronica Banchs, founder of Blue Crayonz, about the organization and its efforts. Blue Crayonz, Inc was named by Ms. Banchs son, Shawn, who has autism. It was due to the needs of her son, and the lack of availability of support networks, that led her to create the non-profit.
As Ms. Banchs described it to us, the key moment was when she contacted NASA about arraigning a visit for her son. The response from NASA was both immediate and exceeding her hopes. Not only did her son get a tour of the facilities, but he was able to meet with an astronaut and scientists who encouraged his interest in science. This warm and positive experience was something that Ms. Banchs felt other families with autistic children should be able to share in, and the birth of the company ensued.
Blue Crayonz started with Ms. Banchs and 3 board members, family and friends that shared her passion to help others. Just 6 months later there are 5 board members, and 30 volunteers that are involved with a range of projects. Already a daytrip for autistic students to the Imaginerium museum was arranged – on a day the museum is normally closed, just for these children so that they could enjoy the experience without the pressure of crowds. A series of auctions are being planned to help raise funds to create classrooms at Paul Lawrence Dunbar Middle School, dedicated to the needs of autistic children. In addition a GoFundMe campaign is available for donations for that and other efforts.
The auction, on June 5, 2015, is part of the Art Walk Downtown Fort Myers with Arts for ACT, will feature donated items from Jeff Lewis of the Bravo cable TV program Flipping Out, author Michael ‘Loki’ Anthony, as well as noted artists Shannon Holland and Marcus Jansen whose work can be found in Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA), The New Britain Museum of American Art, The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, Taiwan and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Blue Crayonz also is working with organizations including Goodwill. Proceeds from the auction will go to creating a sensory and quiet classroom (costing $17000 each).
Ms. Banchs explained that Blue Crayonz is focused on working directly with those in need to not only locate resources, but to help them in securing those resources as well. An example of one situation was a recent call that Ms. Banchs received from a grandmother, Lesley Newman, who was taking care of her 3 1/2 year old autistic grandchild, Aubrey Clark. Aubrey generally communicated through music and Ms. Newman was seeking help to encourage that communication. Ms. Banchs went to work for 2 weeks to secure a donation of a hand-painted guitar (from Dharma T Lefevre) and music lessons (from Janet McCrory Demarco). During that 2 weeks Aubrey developed a gastrointestinal issue and went in for surgery at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida on May 22, 2015. Ms. Banchs arranged for the guitar and a performance to be given to Aubrey in the hospital upon her recovery [See photo above].
It is these efforts, like the Orbing for Autism Bubble Soccer Event on May 17, 2015, and another trip to NASA as a day for kids with autism, and work with Autism On The Seas, that has Blue Crayonz looking to expand their reach beyond the Florida headquarters. Plans are being made to expand to California and New York. Ms. Banchs hopes that in 5 years Blue Crayonz can be an international organization,
“We want to help people be family. Our passion is to change lives with compassion around the world.”
At a time when so many charitable non-profits are in question, when markets are concerned about the growth of jobs and self-employment, Blue Crayonz is one example of the potential that exists.
** To contact Blue Crayonz, Inc, – http://www.bluecrayonzinc.org/contact-us/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Swflbluecrayonz