For many of us, art can be a powerful form of expression. For children facing trauma or abuse, art therapy can be a normalising experience and a game-changer.
Two advertising executives from Brisbane have taken hold of this premise to create 'Monster Crayons', a project that hopes to deliver a continuous income to national counselling and therapy service, Act for Kids.
We wanted to come up with a way to help more kids draw away their monsters.
Act for Kids provides professional therapy and services to children and young people who have experienced child abuse or neglect.
The idea first came to Christian McKechnie and Ben Lees when the pair were doing some advertising work with the charity three years ago.
"One day, Benny was talking to one of the therapists who had been guiding a child through an intensive art therapy program. The child was drawing monster after monster after monster," co-founder McKechnie told The Huffington Post Australia.
"It got to a point where, finally, the child was starting to heal and began drawing happier things. This was apparently very common ... we wanted to come up with a way to help more kids draw away their monsters."
The idea was powerful in its simplicity: abused kids who are moving through art therapy draw monsters until they start to heal. McKechnie and Lees would design, produce and package packs of crayons, with 100 percent of the profits delivered straight to the charity.
With no experience in the field, the execution was a little more complicated.
The pair designed four characters based on original children's drawings. Prototypes were created by melting existing crayons and refined using 3D printing.
"We decided we would crowdfund the entire thing and we had no idea how big this would become. We wanted to get 10,000 packs of crayons in stores across the country," McKechnie said.
Art Therapy As A Powerful Tool
Trauma-informed art or play-based therapy is a common diagnostic tool used by counsellors and therapists. It forms part of a service, among others, offered by Act for Kids.
"It is a way for kids to move through therapy that is non-confrontational. These kids are some of the most vulnerable in our society and the last thing they need to go through is something they perceive as more traumatic," McKechnie said.
"A lot of children who have been through abuse or neglect are under-developed in their communication skills. Their ability to draw something can be much more expressive than talking about it."
The pair have raised over $22,000 since since February 2016. The successful campaign has lead to packs of crayons being distributed to over 100 national Telstra stores last month.
"For a long time, we thought this wasn't going to happen. We were lucky to have so many passionate people around us who jumped onboard and donated all of their time for free," McKechnie said.
As the pair look to expand their distribution of 'Monster Crayons' across the country, they hope to maintain a long-term, self-sustainable business model for the charity.
Head to the website to find out where you can buy your monsters.
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