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8-year-old raises $27 thousand for multicultural crayons and markers

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Andrew Thomas was exposed to racial prejudice at summer camp last summer. Then Black Lives Matter protests were all over the news. That’s when the conversation arrived at the dining room table for eight-year-old Andrew and his mother Jana.

“Why can't people just be nice to each other?” Andrew asked his Mom - a question that remains difficult to answer for many people. But for Andrew, the solution to the bad news was found in a box of crayons, and as the nation faced great division, Andrew sought to unify his local community with a message of love and inclusion.

Colorado Voices8-year-old Andrew Thomas is Making a Difference
5:20
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8-year-old Andrew Thomas makes a difference by gifting multicultural crayons and markers.

Earlier last summer, Andrew shared his frustration with not being able to find his skin color in a box of Crayola crayons. “Everyone belongs in the crayon box,” says Andrew. Instead of asking his mother for the crayons from the store, he wanted to provide the crayons to every elementary school kid in Mesa County. He felt that his frustration was shared throughout the Grand Valley. “I think they felt sad and kind of gloomy not being able to color themselves just the way they are,” said Andrew.

In short time, his fundraiser, named Love One Another, was born. Andrew’s goal was to raise twenty-five thousand dollars, enough to supply every school in Mesa county with multicultural crayons and markers.

With the help of his mother, Andrew began writing letters to school principals, informing them of his efforts and asking for their support. But the letters weren't enough for Andrew, he needed something tangible to share with people. So he reached out to Michael Wells at Locker Room, a screenprinting and embroidery shop in Fruita, with the idea to sell stickers and t-shirts. “It was a shock to me because I didn’t even think about all the colors not being in the crayon box,” said Wells, the shop’s owner. Andrew’s new ally was now on board, donating ink, material, and time to help Andrew reach his goal.

Andrew's merchandise needed a graphic, and his family wanted to help. MiKealy Thomas, Andrew’s sister and a Graphic Design student, stepped up to the plate. With her help, Andrew’s hand-written Love One Another graphic was now a reality, and he could begin the shirt-making process.

Andrew's t-shirt design.

MiKealy shared Andrew's passion as well and knew that without marketing his efforts would be doomed. She took to social media and began posting photos of Andrew and their merchandise, which was now available for sale through Locker Room’s website. Love One Another was official, and now Andrew had the tangible goods and social media presence he needed.

The digital storefront went live on Aug. 14, 2020 and gained traction quickly. Within two weeks Andrew's non-profit had raised six thousand dollars. “Andrew was there with me on a lot of Wednesday and Sunday nights - stuffing t-shirts in bags and putting postage on envelopes,” said Wells.

Love One Another products.

His family was shipping shirts and stickers all over the nation, including to an Art teacher in Canada that also wanted to support the cause. Eight weeks after the site went live, Andrew met his goal of twenty-five thousand dollars.

But Andrew wasn’t to the finish line yet. Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the multicultural crayons and markers were on backorder, with the Crayola factories shut down. Refusing to quit, Andrew wrote a letter to Becker’s School Supplies in New Jersey, asking for help. Using their good relations with Crayola, Becker’s was able to make the eight-year-old's dream a reality.

Pallets of crayons and markers.

Soon, pallets containing nine-thousand boxes of crayons and over four-hundred boxes of markers arrived at the Thomas residence. It was now time for the fun work of delivering the supplies to the elementary schools. With so many schools to visit, Andrew couldn’t possibly do it in a reasonable amount of time. Holy Family Catholic School, Andrew’s school, allowed him time away from class to complete the enormous task.

Andrew makes a delivery to Jake Aubert, Principal at Holy Family Catholic School.

Children all over the county began sharing their joy for Andrew’s gift. “It was amazing to watch – for a moment they were all on the same playing field,” said Andrew’s second grade teacher Ericka Clark. The children would call out in excitement as they discovered their matching skin color, setting them aside and treating them special compared to the other crayons. Andrew’s crayons and markers had now reached every elementary school in Mesa County’s School District 51, including Holy Family Catholic School and Caprock Academy.

Andrew had changed the news and was now in it as well. Local media began sharing Andrew’s story which caught the attention of Black Citizens and Friends, the Grand Junction based organization that hosts the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. “The reason projects like his are so important for the community is that they prove that things like this can be done by anyone,” said Chairman David Combs.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021, Andrew received the Making a Difference Award from Black Citizens and Friends, along with a Harry Butler Scholarship Award for his noble efforts through Love One Another. As of Jan. 18, 2021, Love One Another has raised $27,450. Though he met his goal, Andrew’s shirts and stickers remain available for sale on the Locker Room website. And his mother Jana says that this story isn't over. They’re in early talks of a children’s story book, rightfully named Love One Another.

Links:

Love One Another on Facebook

Love One Another online shop: T-shirts, stickers, and donations

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