Darius Brown’s passion for animals is matched only by his love of bow ties, and the Newark, New Jersey, 12-year-old decided to combine the two into something useful.
Brown’s organization, Beaux and Paws, dresses shelter pets up in fancy bow ties, made by the preteen himself, so the animals can look good while seeking adoption.
“It helps the dog look noticeable, very attractive,” he told the Today Show. “It helps them find a forever, loving home … I love everything about dogs and cats.”
Brown was diagnosed with comprehension delay, speech delay and fine motor skills delay when he was only two years old, and over time, his family encouraged his creativity as he developed his love for animals and fashion, according to Today.
His mother, Joy Brown, 40, and 22-year-old sister Dazhai Brown-Shearz noticed a breakthrough for Brown when he turned eight while his sister was enrolled in cosmetology school. There, he began to cut fabrics and learned to sew to help make his sister hair ribbons.
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“With his fine motor skills, he wasn’t able to really use his hands well — tying a shoe was challenging,” Brown-Shearz told Today. “My mother and I came up with the idea that if he helped us with things like prepping the ribbon or cutting it, and sewing fabric together, it would help him. And it did — it worked!”
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Shortly after, Brown began making his own bow ties and wore one nearly every day. According to the outlet, strangers would stop Brown to ask him where they were sold. It was then that Beaux and Paws came into fruition.
“I wear bow ties all the time,” Brown said. “Literally everywhere I go, I wear a bow tie.”
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The preteen has since donated hundreds of bow ties to animal shelters throughout the country and is now in the process of fundraising to provide even more of them to dogs and cats who are looking for a home.
For every purchase from Beaux and Paws, Brown makes a donation to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and uses proceeds from those sales to buy fabric and materials to create more bow ties. Meanwhile, Today reported that he’s been receiving donations of fabrics and supplies to help his project.
“The donations help a lot because we were just digging in our pockets, buying the fabric ourselves,” his mother told Today.
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The young entrepreneur has even been acknowledged by former President Barack Obama, who sent him a letter praising Brown for his work and commitment to community service.
“Dear Darius,” Obama’s letter began. “After hearing your story, I wanted to reach out to commend you for your commitment to community service. From founding Beaux and Paws to lifting up the lives of those around you, it’s clear you are doing your part to look out for your fellow citizens. And I trust you take tremendous pride in all you have accomplished.”
“As long as you stay engaged in the world around you, continue looking for ways to help others, and never give up on yourself, I’m confident our future will be bright. Know that I’m rooting for you in all you do, and I wish you the very best,” he continued.
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Brown is now continuing fundraising efforts to increase the production of his bow ties, and so he can travel this summer to personally donate his handiwork.