Darius Brown dropped about 25 handcrafted flies at the New York ASPCA shelter. Hundreds of displaced dogs and cats made their way north to this shelter after Hurricane Irma in hopes of being adopted and finding a new home forever. Brown wanted to give back in some way, so he made pet-sized bow ties that the animals could carry to highlight them for potential adopters.
“I was like, ‘Who wouldn’t love a bow tie dog?'” Brown told CNN when considering his journey as a haberdashery.
He remembered that he was eight years old when he started sewing bow ties. He credits his older sister, Dazhai Brown, for inspiring him to start sewing in the first place.
“My sister is like a second mother to me,” said Brown. “And when I was growing up, pretty much anything she wanted to do, I wanted to do.”
Dazhai, a beauty student at the time, made hair bows for her clients. Darius saw her doing the hair bows and asked if he could help. Together they made a bow tie for him with the theme Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. He was so pleased with the result that he continued to help his sister and eventually learned how to make flies himself.
“We got Darius to help me cut the fabric,” she explained, explaining that despite his ambitious attitude, his family was initially reluctant to let him help.
Darius was diagnosed with language and fine motor skills at a young age. His mother, Joy Brown, explained how difficult it was for him to complete tasks that people took for granted, such as tying his shoes.
“Because of that, I felt it was better to wait,” said Joy. “But I never wanted him to feel any different, so at one point I got him some safety scissors and he got to work.”
Joy says sewing helped Darius overcome the challenges he faced. “And now he’s doing a great job with the sewing machine,” she continued.
Darius’ fly donation to the ASPCA quickly caught the attention of many animal shelters across the country and around the world. He spent his free time at the sewing machine fulfilling the growing number of donation requests for flies. He even started his own dog fly business called Beaux and Paws.
His work also caught the attention of former President Barack Obama, who mailed Darius a letter thanking him for his community service.
“I was in awe when I got the letter,” said Darius, remembering how it left him speechless. “It was amazing and really inspired me to keep going,” he said.
The 14-year-old explained how he has made and donated over 600 bow ties in the past four years. His family constantly praises him for his dedication to his craft.
“It can be stressful at times,” admitted Darius. “I always think about how many dogs I can help get adopted.” He thinks about how some protection dogs that are not adopted can possibly be euthanized.
Darius explained how it hurt when he found out. “I thought about the fact that a person who was in a nursing home too long would not be euthanized,” continued Darius. “But dogs that stay in a shelter too long can?”
The positive reaction from all animal shelters along with the letter from the former president inspired Darius to come up with a new goal: to donate a fly to an animal shelter in every state. He’s made it to DC and eight states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Illinois.
Despite Darius’ immense love of dogs, pet restrictions do not allow his family to have a dog in their apartment complex. “But if I could have a dog I wanted, I’d get a Pomeranian, a Golden Retriever, or a Dachshund.”
The young entrepreneur wants to further expand Beaux and Paws and one day create a clothing line for dogs.
With high school just around the corner, Darius is really excited about the future. He was recently inducted into Choate Rosemary Hall and Lawrenceville School. His family expressed how proud they are of him and of everything he has achieved so far.
“He just works so hard at everything he does,” said Dazhai, a current student at Howard University. “I really want everything for Darius.”
“It just makes me proud to know that he developed this passion and ability,” said Joy. “And now he’s using it to help others.”