The Crayon Initiative News

Written by Bernadette Shanahan-Haas
on October 19, 2022

It was at a young age that Avery Paladino learned just how much a small box of crayons can mean.

When she was eight, her best friend and older brother, Ethan, was diagnosed with an incurable type of brain cancer known as DIPG.

Over the next fifteen months, they spent most of their days in hospitals. Avery discovered the comfort and distraction art could bring. It was something she and Ethan could still do together, even when he wasn’t feeling well.

A Continuing Legacy

When Ethan passed away, Avery made art to cope with her loss. It became her outlet to express her grief.

That year, Avery’s principal connected her with The Crayon Initiative. Avery discovered she could honor Ethan and help other kids. She and her classmates collected 100 pounds of used and broken crayons. In 2017, Avery sent us an endearing email:


Since then, the Paladino family have become some of The Crayon Initiative's best friends. Recently, they came all the way from Virginia to see us in Danville, California.

We encourage you to take a couple minutes to hear their special story.



Leah was kind enough to share even more about why her family chose to join The Crayon Box, our monthly donor program.


Leah, what do you like about The Crayon Initiative’s mission?

The Crayon Initiative's mission is really important for two reasons: One, it recycles crayons that would otherwise live forever in landfills. Two, in addition to not being in a landfill, these crayons become a beautiful gift to other children who really can find solace and joy in the gift of creativity.

In addition to collecting crayons, can you talk about the other creative ways you've been kind enough to help?

We have asked the Virginia School Board Association leadership if there might be a way to share The Crayon Initiative experience with all Virginia school divisions at the annual convention. Also, all the Piedmont Regional Education Program superintendents.

What motivated you to become monthly contributors, on top of everything else?

We support The Crayon Initiative with a monthly gift because—although there are many wonderful volunteers here—it takes a significant amount of financial support to keep this organization able to supply crayons to hospitals. There is a lot of equipment and many expenses to make these crayons. So we’re happy to partner financially to support The Crayon Initiative every month.
Because we live in Virginia, we're not able to donate time to work alongside the many wonderful volunteers at the Danville HQ. Partnering with The Crayon Initiative through a monthly financial contribution lets us be a part of the mission we hold so dear. How amazing that this allows caring people from all across the country to join together to be a very important part of providing new crayons to children in hospitals.
You'll always have friends in the Paladinos. We can’t help but be grateful for the many blessings that have grown from the inspiration of simple crayons five years ago. Ethan was a wonderful, loving person. He loved being a big brother to Avery. Caring about people was very dear to his heart. We know he would love this. Avery has found purpose in continuing Ethan’s profound legacy of caring through The Crayon Initiative.

Avery’s talents in art and writing have continued to grow. She often makes her family gifts of art, as you can see in the video above. She is also working on a comic book.

Thank you deeply, Paladino family, for your continued support.

If you’d like to join the Paladinos in The Crayon Box, you can learn more about the impact of being a monthly donor.


Learn More