paper clouds – part deux


{image is a flyer from Paper Clouds. It reads “Brooke’s Fruited Plane – Get it Before it Flies Away!! 50% of Proceeds Benefit Massachusetts Advocates for from 12.29 – 1.11}

Ed note: I wrote the following in August. If you already know the Paper Clouds story and why they mean so much to our family, please feel free to skip to the *** below.

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.

Back in August, Brooke’s drawings became available on Paper Clouds Apparel and half of the net proceeds (yes, HALF) went to one of her favorite places on Earth, Miss Alysia’s Playhouse. The campaign was such a success that last month, when Robert asked the Paper Clouds family to vote on which designs they’d like to bring back at the end of the year, Brooke’s Above The Fruited Plane was among the most requested.
{image is a photo of Brooke, cracking herself up one morning before school. She is wearing a red sweatshirt made by Paper Clouds Apparel featuring her “Above The Fruited Plane” drawing — an airplane carrying a watermelon, an apple, an orange, a banana, blueberries, grapes, a strawberry, pineapple and cherries.}
Brooke is absolutely thrilled to see her design on the website again. This time, however, we decided to spread the love a little and partner up with another of our absolute favorite places, Mass Advocates for Children. I’m constantly asked which foundations we  support, given how problematic so many charities that claim to advocate for autistic people are. MAC is one of my go-to answers. In October, I wrote about the incredible work that they do, all on a shoestring budget thanks to their incredible staff of talented and dedicated volunteers.
{Image is the homepage for MAC (Massachusetts Advocates for Children). It shows a young girl looking up at the camera, her arms spread out like an airplane (coincidence delightfully noted). The text reads “Changing conditions for many while also helping one child at a time.”}
In October, I wrote, “[MAC] is on the ground with their sleeves rolled up doing the work that needs to be done. They are working with individuals, schools, doctors, lawyers, families and legislators to ensure that every child in Massachusetts has access to the Free and Appropriate Public Education guaranteed them under the law. They are changing the educational paradigm in this state and in so doing, making sure that no one, regardless of zip code, socioeconomic status, native language, or any of the myriad other factors that shouldn’t but do affect one’s chance at a fair shot are left out.”
That’s the stuff that matters. The stuff that evens the playing field and provides real access to it for the next generation of out-of-the-box thinkers and paradigm-smashers and new world inventors — our kids. Please take the time to read more about their amazing work HERE.
In the meantime, you can support MAC’s mission AND Robert’s mission simply by buying a bag, shirt, or hat (the choices are endless!) with Brooke’s utterly fabulous drawing on it. Simple as that. Changing the world, one fruited plane at a time.
Click HERE to like Paper Clouds Apparel’s Facebook page and then tell your friends to do the same. Robert is always posting wonderful stories, pictures, and even give-aways. Even if you can’t buy something now, this is a great place to start!
Click HERE to design something featuring Brooke’s Fruited Plane, and check out the other fabulous artists while you’re there!
Click HERE to learn more about MAC.
Click HERE for no good reason.
Now go shop!


2 thoughts on “paper clouds – part deux

  1. Pingback: Featured on Paper Clouds Massachusetts Advocates for Children

  2. All of us at Massachusetts Advocates for Children are so touched by this! Julia Landau, Director of MAC’s Autism Center says, “Thank you Brooke and Jess, for sharing your talents with us and inspiring so many with your example!” With only 3 days left, we are spreading the word about Paper Clouds “Fruited Plane” attire to all our friends and cheering on this wonderful campaign. Thank you for being such a good friend to MAC!

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