Teen helps adoptable dogs stand out with handmade bow ties
Darius Brown dropped off about 25 handmade bow ties at the ASPCA New York Animal Shelter. Hundreds of displaced dogs and cats headed north to this shelter after Hurricane Irma, hoping to be adopted and find a new forever home. Brown wanted to give back in some way, so he made pet-sized bow ties that animals could wear to make them stand out to potential adopters.
“I thought, ‘Who wouldn’t love a dog with a bow tie? ‘” Brown told CNN as he reflected on his journey as a pet haberdasher.
He remembers being eight years old when he started learning to sew bow ties. He credits his older sister, Dazhai Brown, as the person who inspired him to start sewing.
“My sister is like a second mom to me,” Brown said. “And growing up, pretty much everything she wanted to do, I wanted to do.”
Dazhai, a cosmetology student at the time, made hair bows for her clients. Darius saw her tying the knots in her hair and asked if he could help her. Together, they built a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed bow tie for him. He was so happy with the result that he continued to help his sister, eventually learning to make bow ties himself.
“We asked Darius to help me cut the fabric first,” she explained, saying that despite his ambitious attitude, his family was initially reluctant to let him help.
Darius was diagnosed with a speech and fine motor disorder at a young age. His mother, Joy Brown, explained how he struggled to do tasks that people might take for granted, like tying his shoes.
“Because of that, I thought it best to wait,” Joy said. “But I never wanted him to feel any different, so eventually I gave him safety scissors and he got to work.”
Joy says sewing helped Darius overcome the challenges he faced. “And now he’s doing an amazing job with the sewing machine,” she continued.
Darius’ bow tie donation to the ASPCA quickly caught the attention of many pet shelters across the country and around the world. He began to spend his free time at the sewing machine, responding to the growing number of requests for bow tie donations. He even started his own dog bow tie business called Beaux and Paws.
His work also caught the eye of former President Barack Obama, who mailed Darius a letter thanking him for his community service.
“I was impressed when I received the letter,” Darius said, recalling how speechless it had left him. “It was amazing and it really inspired me to keep going,” he said.
The 14-year-old explained how he has made and donated over 600 bow ties over the past four years. His family constantly praises him for his dedication to his craft.
“It can be stressful at times,” Darius admitted. “I always think about how many dogs I can help adopt.” He thinks about how some shelter dogs that aren’t adopted can eventually be euthanized.
Darius explained how much it hurt when he first discovered it. “I figured that if a person stayed too long in a foster home, they wouldn’t be euthanized,” Darius continued. “But can dogs that stay too long in a shelter?”
The positive response from all the shelters along with the former president’s letter inspired Darius to set a new goal: to donate bow ties to an animal shelter in every state. It’s happened in DC and eight states so far, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and Illinois.
Despite Darius’ immense love for dogs, pet restrictions will not allow his family to have a dog in their apartment complex. “But if I could have any dog I wanted, I would get a Pomeranian, a Golden Retriever or a Dachshund.”
The young entrepreneur wants to continue to develop Beaux and Paws and one day create a line of clothes for dogs.
With high school just around the corner, Darius is beyond excited for what the future holds. He was recently accepted to Choate Rosemary Hall and Lawrenceville School. His family expressed how proud they are of him and all he has accomplished so far.
“He works so hard at everything he does,” said Dazhai, a current student at Howard University. “I really want everything for Darius.”
“It makes me proud to know that he was able to develop that passion and that skill,” Joy said. “And now he uses it to help others.”