We were created in September of 2011 by Emily Skopov after she discovered that at least 97% of restaurants in the U.S. throw out all crayons left behind by the young customers to whom they’re traditionally given as part of the dining experience – despite these complimentary crayons typically remaining in pristine condition.
In 2011, Emily was celebrating her son’s 7th birthday at a Red Robin Restaurant in Cranberry Township, PA. Because her son was playing with a new birthday gift during their meal, he uncharacteristically did not use the crayons that came with his children’s menu. When she tried to return these crayons — still in their package — to the waiter, he did not accept them, explaining that all crayons given to customers, regardless of use, were thrown away after the customers departed. Horrified, Emily spoke to the manager and he eagerly agreed with her proposal to have all of the crayons left behind by customers donated to her, along with all of the “trash” crayons from 6 other Pittsburgh-area Red Robin locations. Stocked with thousands of brand new and barely used crayons, she began cold-calling shelters for abused women and children, homeless shelters, as well as day care centers in economically challenged neighborhoods, inquiring if any of them were in need of free crayons. They were thrilled to accept the crayons, and Emily knew there was more to be done.
Initially beginning on a small, locally-focused scale with volunteers who assisted Emily in personally collecting donated crayons from various restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, No Crayon Left Behind has since expanded its donor base to restaurants, schools and businesses (the latter two types of institutions holding crayon drives where their students and employees enthusiastically donate both new and used crayons by the tens of thousands) all across the U.S., with these donors generously incurring the cost of shipping these crayons directly to our office in Wexford, PA. From there, the crayons are quality-controlled, with those that are in new, or like-new, condition being disinfected, sorted by color, and bundled and packaged before being shipped to those who need them most. Those crayons that are broken or damaged are melted down by us or our volunteers and then molded into new crayons that are also then packaged and shipped to recipients.
No Crayon Left Behind has recently expanded its reach to military veterans, beginning with its project Coloring to Combat PTSD, which is a coloring book of original artwork drawn by veterans. These coloring books are gifted, along with crayons, at no cost to those military veterans who use them as therapy to relieve the stress and anxiety associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
To date, No Crayon Left Behind has gifted over one million crayons to a wide variety of organizations in over 20 countries, and continues to expand its reach to the endless numbers of children and young people for whom this most basic instrument for art and self-expression is often an unaffordable luxury.