Until this July, 7-year-old Ella Tryon had never been admitted to a hospital. But, after being diagnosed with a severe food allergy, the Ohio girl found herself unable to leave her hospital room at University Hospital Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital due to her need for a feeding tube.
So Ella sent her mom, Jackie Tryon, to the hospital playroom in search of crayons to color with.
"When I was in the hospital, I wanted to color a rainbow," Ella told TODAY Parents. "And, when I found out I couldn't, I wanted to help."
According to Ella's mom, Jackie Tryon, Ella "couldn't" color her rainbow because the hospital's playroom does not keep a large supply of crayons due to cross-contanimation concerns.
"She loves to color, but the crayons were broken and thrown in a drawer," said Tryon. "Not all the colors were there, and I told her the next time we had to come to the hospital, we would bring a few boxes with us to donate them."
Tryon says her daughter loved the idea, asking if they could ask fellow church members and her mom's Facebook connections to donate crayons as well. Within three weeks, Ella had collected 1,000 boxes of crayons.
More Moments That Matter videos
After battling leukemia, this woman returned to the same hospital as a nurse
Parents teach children about compassion by adopting a kitten with leukemia
Watch: Mischievous 3-year-old girl steals Pope Francis’ cap
Dylan Dreyer’s back: See adorable pics of her new baby Calvin
"She wanted every child who was admitted to have their own box of crayons that they could keep forever," said Tryon. "After we collected 1,000 boxes, she changed her goal to 5,000 boxes. Then, she said she wanted to collect 10,000 boxes by Christmas."
In October, Ella delivered more than 13,000 boxes of crayons and more than 200 coloring books to UH Rainbow with the help of a semi truck donated by KraftMaid Cabinets, a local Ohio company that also donated crayons to Ella's effort.
A spokesperson for UH Rainbow told TODAY Parents that the hospital sees 1,400 pediatric patients per month on average — most of whom will benefit from Ella's donation.
Patti DePompei is president of the facility, and says the hospital is tremendously grateful to Ella and her supporters for their generosity.
"Ella’s selfless act is an example to all of us about how unconditional giving can create such a great impact," said DePompei. "We can’t thank Ella and the community enough for their continuous generosity that helps us deliver the most positive hospital experience to our patients and families.”
But Ella isn't stopping with her donation to UH Rainbows.
"Her new goal is to donate 5,000 boxes of crayons to St. Jude's Children's Hospital," said Tryon. "And then 1,000 boxes to each children's hospital in the United States."
Ella's mom has started a Facebook page for Ella's crayon-collecting, and is going through the process of starting Help Me Color A Rainbow — a non-profit organization that will accept both crayon donations and monetary contributions to help with Ella's goals.
"She has definitely restored my faith in humanity," said Tryon. "My husband, Chris, and I are both in law enforcement, and it is so refreshing to see just how many kind people there still are, because in our world, there aren't."
Tryon says the experience has also been beneficial in teaching her daughter about gratitude. Whenever a donation with a return address is received, Tryon has Ella mail a "thank you" card complete with a drawing of a rainbow.
"People think that kids can't make a difference," said Tryon. "But she did — she made over 13,000 differences."
Contributions to Help Me Color A Rainbow can be mailed to: Color Me A Rainbow, C/O Ella Tryon, PO Box 1124, Chardon, OH 44024