After a family dinner at a local Outback Steakhouse, Yoni Kalin noticed the waiters tossing into the trash small packs of crayons given out to young diners. He wondered how many thousands were being thrown out around the country at a time when news reports showed teachers digging into their own pockets to buy school supplies for students.
Inspired to take action, Yoni contacted several Outback Steakhouses to ask if they would collect the used crayons for him to recycle and donate to schools and shelters in need.
In the last several years, the boy, now 18, has coordinated 25 teenage volunteers to collect 100,000 crayons from 46 restaurants in ten states, while simultaneously reducing thousands of pounds of landfill waste.
The project, called Color My World, also distributes an original coloring book designed to teach kids about recycling, while offering the fun of coloring.
“I like to think that our project shows how youth can originate and implement innovative ideas that can make an immediate and meaningful difference,” wrote Yoni on their website, www.colormyworldproject.org.
They distribute bins to restaurants, collect the discarded crayons, then sanitizes them for reuse. Yoni has raised approximately $10,000 for his cause, and received a donation from Crayola of 37,000 new crayons.
The Washington, DC native was named one of 15 Build-A-Bear Workshop Huggable Heroes in July and awarded $10,000 in cash and a $7,500 educational scholarship for his outstanding work.