THE INSPIRATION: In 2017, as Sir Darius Brown watched news coverage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma battering the Gulf Coast, he had one thought: What will happen to all the pets that are being displaced by the storms?
Of course, Sir Darius was also worried about the people affected by the hurricanes, but he knew they would receive help. He wasn’t so sure about the dogs and cats that might get left behind when their owners were evacuated. “They looked sad and scared,” he recalls.
Later, Sir Darius learned that many of the animals caught in the storm were being sent to shelters near his New Jersey home. Sadly, pets that went unclaimed for too long would be euthanized.
He was devastated—and motivated to help. “I was determined to make sure that each of these pets had the best chance of being adopted,” he says.
THE ACTION: Sir Darius figured pets were more likely to find new homes if they could catch the eye of potential adopters. So he decided to sew bow ties they could wear for their photos on the shelter’s website. He’d started sewing after being diagnosed with developmental delays that affected his fine-motor skills. The delays made it difficult to do tasks involving his hands, and sewing helped improve his dexterity. He was thrilled to be able to use his hobby for a good cause. “I’m a big animal lover, and I felt excited to help pets find new homes,” he says.
He began making 10 bow ties each weekend, then donating them to shelters in his area. He also attended pet adoption events, where he styled the animals in his customized neckwear. Demand for his bow ties grew. With his mom’s help, he set up a GoFundMe account to raise money so he could increase production.
OUTCOME: Sir Darius has made about 500 bow ties, which have helped more than 100 dogs and cats find forever homes. His ties have been shipped to shelters as far away as the United Kingdom. President Joe Biden’s rescued German shepherd, Major, wore one at a charity event.
As soon as it’s safe to travel, Sir Darius plans to visit shelters in all 50 states, but his ambitions are global. “My mission is to help as many animals as I can—all around the world,” he says.