paper clouds

It started what must be almost a year ago now. Nearly every time that I posted one of Brooke’s drawings on Facebook (which was, well, a lot cause the kid draws like it’s her job), someone would say, ‘Oh, you HAVE to get her work on Paper Clouds. And I would nod and smile through the computer screen and move on.

I don’t mean to sound callous, but the truth is that I’ve gotten pretty cynical in my old age. And when I looked briefly at Paper Clouds website and saw that they sell apparel featuring the work of individuals with special needs in order to employ those with special needs, I was wary.

You see, those of us who have been around this block a time or two can get a little jaded. Our community is far too often leveraged as a marketing tool and when it comes down to it, gets little or nothing in return. And, worse, we often end up being the ones to shell out what little disposable income we have on the promise of, well, promise. We are far more susceptible than most to the fools’ gold of false hope.

But the chorus grew louder.

“You HAVE to get Brooke’s work up on Paper Clouds!”

So I began to investigate. Here’s what I found.

This place is the real deal. The company is the vision and life’s work of its founder, CEO, and one man band, Robert Thornton. Robert believes that he can change the world. And, after talking to him over these last couple of months, so do I.

His business model, while ambitious, is pretty simple. Take artwork created by those with disabilities and make it wearable (or carryable). Sell it at a reasonable price. Give HALF the net proceeds to a charity whose mission is meaningful to the artist. Employ disabled workers to process, prep and mail the finished products to customers and pay them a fair market wage (like ABOVE minimum wage) to do it. Oh, and put in a hand-written thank you note for each and every customer to thank them for helping to change the world, cause, yeah.

Robert ain’t getting rich off of this. Well, not financially at least. But he’s hell-bent on making it work. Because he sees the possibilities in a replicable, sustainable business model that creates real, actionable, long-term opportunities for the vast numbers of unemployed or dramatically underemployed disabled individuals in this country and beyond.  We can hound our local municipalities, Congress and federal agencies to fix the situation all we want (and I believe we must), but in the meantime, we need to support guys like Robert who are simply DOING it.

So, all of that said, by the time that Robert left a note on Diary’s Facebook page (under one of Brooke’s drawings, of course), asking me to contact him, I was already on board.

Little Miss was another story. When I asked if she’d like to see her artwork on a t-shirt, she said, “Maybe later. ” When I asked if she’d be willing to participate in a campaign for a really cool website called Paper Clouds Apparel, she said, “Maybe later.” When I said, “What if by sending these guys some of your pictures we can help Miss Alysia’s playhouse?” She said, “Could you reach the markers please?”

From the moment that Brooke knew that her campaign would be for SenseAbility Gym, she was in.

And so it is that for just TWO MORE DAYS, you can own a piece of Brooke’s artwork and HALF the net proceeds of the sale will go directly to one of her favorite places on Earth. A place that she can fill with every part of who she is. A place where none of her is too big or too loud or too disruptive or ever, ever too anything.

Have you ever heard the song, “Six Foot Town,” by Big and Rich?

My brakes are on fire
From trying to slow down
I’m always burning my tires
And my horn is too loud
I catch people looking funny at me
When I step to the window and I toss a TV
Sometimes I get crazy and it makes a big scene
But when I hit 21 I wanna stand up and scream
I’m filthy rich with laughter, I’m too big for the room
You know from two stories up
A Zenith makes a big boom

It’s hard to get around in a six foot town
When your ten feet tall everything is so small
I’m always bumping my head
I’m way to long for the bed
It’s hard to get around
In a six foot town.

Some people live inside a tiny little box
Their preoccupied about mismatching their socks
I never been one to worry about much
I just wanna laugh and love
I just wanna live it up

It’s hard to get around in a six foot town
When your ten feet tall everything is so small
I’m always bumping my head
I’m way to long for the bed
It’s hard to get around
In a six foot town.

Sometimes I stumble just because of my size
But hey y’all that’s alright
That’s the way God made me
I am what I am
And I can’t do nothing bout that

It’s hard to get around in a six foot town.

Miss Alysia’s playhouse is Brooke’s ten foot world. A place with no brakes, no funny looks, no boxes. Just love and laughter. Like this ..

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{image is a photo of Brooke with Alysia’s sons, Lewis and Howie at SenseAbility this weekend.}

Every little thing (and every not at all little thing) about this campaign is so close to my heart. From Brooke’s joy at seeing her artwork online to her pride in helping Miss Alysia’s Playhouse to be there for all of her ten foot friends. From Robert’s vision of a better world to his employees’ passion for what they do.

Money is tight around these parts lately. But I bought eight (yes eight) tote bags for friends, family, and a couple of friends who have become family. To put it another way, my Christmas shopping is pretty much done.

So this is how it works …

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{Image is a screenshot of the PCA website on which I’m making a tote bag featuring Brooke’s No Boys Allowed (the Godspell workers acting out a scene from Peppa Pig, as you do.). For those with sons, this is a great way to keep em out of your bag.}

You choose one of Brooke’s designs (there are four), then decide what you want it on, and then you order it. And then you order another one as a Christmas gift. And then you tell a friend. And they tell a friend. And Paper Clouds becomes the new paradigm for businesses everywhere. Can you imagine? I can.

Please, please, please take a look at the website and, if you can, buy something. And please — pretty please — click HERE and “like” the Paper Clouds Facebook page. That little step is far more meaningful than you might think.

Robert is running this company on a shoestring. His marketing department is us. Word of mouth. That’s what he’s got. A posting on your Facebook page. An invitation to friends to like the page and check out what they’re doing. A bug in the ear of someone – anyone – who has a big social media following.That’s what it takes to get this thing going in earnest.

This is what it takes to show the world that employing the disabled is not disabling. That it is possible to run a company that gives away HALF of its net proceeds to causes that matter to its artists. That we don’t have to be satisfied with piece work at pennies a day for our kids.

This is where it starts.

Please, go like the page.

Thank you for supporting our efforts.

It means a world of opportunity to my kid.

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Images above are flyers for Brooke’s campaign featuring her artwork.

The first, “No Boys Allowed,” is based on a scene from Peppa Pig. It shows the Godspell girls (from left to right: Mary Magdalene, Mary Carson, Jessie Lynn, Mary 1 and Mary 2) in their clubhouse, labeled “No Boys Allowed.” Outside, looking very angry about being left out, are (David Haskell as) John the Baptist and (Victor Garber as) Jesus. 

The second, “Grapes,” is, well, grapes. Perfect for the wine lover in the family. 

The third, “Fruited Plane,” is Brooke’s take on the lyric from “America the Beautiful.” It shows a plane carrying, from left to right, a watermelon, an apple, an orange, a banana, blueberries, grapes, a strawberry, a pineapple and cherries. 

The fourth shows Grover in his soccer uniform. He is #4.

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Ed note: As I’m typing, Brooke just looked over my shoulder and shouted, “There’s the fruited plane!” That, my friends, is why. Thank you for being here with us.

 

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19 thoughts on “paper clouds

  1. Every aspect of this is amazing and empowering. I’ve bought and liked and can’t wait for my vest to arrive in the UK.

  2. On behalf of all the families at SenseAbility Gym, I am so thankful to Brooke and to Robert and to you for putting together a campaign like this to support our gym.

  3. I was on the fence about whether or not I could justify buying myself a shirt. Then I read: “Employ disabled workers to process, prep and mail the finished products to customers and pay them a fair market wage (like ABOVE minimum wage) to do it.”

    So now I’m stuck here, waiting for it to get light outside because I need to buy a shirt. See, the shirt costs four more dollars than I have in my bank account right now (don’t judge, I’m financially incompetent). Which means I need to coerce my parents into putting more money into my account. But it’s 5 AM Pacific Time. And they are asleep. I hate waiting. That is all.

    Oh, lastly: YES OF COURSE I AM BUYING A FRUITED PLANE SHIRT THAT ISN’T EVEN A QUESTION YOU SHOULD HAVE TO ASK.

  4. Because you guys are New Englanders, I’m just going to go ahead and assume that Grover wears #4 because numbah foah, Bobby Ohhhhhhr. Just say yes, ok? I have worn 4 on every jersey on every team it was available. And the guys that wear #4 are always my favorite players. Oh, and Grover was always my favorite Sesame Street character. Can you say “fate?” I’ll be placing an order.

  5. Reblogged this on Spectrum Perspectives and commented:
    “This is what it takes to show the world that employing the disabled is not disabling. That it is possible to run a company that gives away HALF of its net proceeds to causes that matter to its artists. That we don’t have to be satisfied with piece work at pennies a day for our kids.

    This is where it starts.”

  6. I just ordered my fruited plane shirt, and can’t wait for it to arrive! Great job, Brooke!
    And thanks so much for sharing the story behind PCA and the awesome things happening there. It’s an honor to be a part of good things like this.

  7. Pingback: Slink's Links

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