One afternoon in March 2018 when Sir Darius Brown came home from school, his mother Joy Brown was downstairs waiting for him. She was so excited she could barely contain herself when she handed Darius a letter. “I opened it and saw it was from [former] President Barack Obama,” Darius said. “I was so amazed. It was something I will never forget.”
President Obama had sent Darius a letter of recognition to commend him for his efforts and commitment to service as well as for his compassion that extends to helping shelter dogs, which began with a bow tie.
He’s not only a serious dog lover, but the now 12-year-old seventh-grader is also an entrepreneur, honor roll student, stylish dresser, and founder of Beaux & Paws where he creates handmade fashionable bow ties for dogs, cats, and their people. He has accomplished it all even with challenges including a diagnosis at age 2 of speech, comprehension, and fine motor skills delay.
As he got older, Darius (the “Sir” part of his name was a nickname that stuck) overcame many of those issues with help from his family. His refreshing positivity and determination have helped him come very far at a young age. “I make sure that I strive to get and reach my goals and do my best,” Darius said.
He became an entrepreneur at the age of 8. “I started making bow ties for people then,” he said. Inspired by his older sister, Dazhai Brown-Shearz, he began to play around with her sewing machine. He couldn’t fully use it due to his delays and instead began working with fabric. “My mom thought it could improve my fine motor skills delay by making the fabric into a bow tie,” Darius said.
Initially family and friends wanted the bow ties. The small business then expanded as others wanted to buy them, including kids, older people, and lots of dog lovers.
A dog lover from a young age, Darius became very emotional after seeing an ASPCA commercial. “I would cry because I would see dogs in cages, and it made me sad,” he said. “I saw them and wanted to help.”
During the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma in 2017, Darius saw a great need. “I saw the dogs and wanted to help in some sort of way,” he said. “I saw that dogs were being transported from Texas and Puerto Rico to New York and thought if I could use my passion of making bow ties and have the dogs wear them, then the dogs could get adopted faster.”
His mother and sister said there would be lots of sacrifices and challenges, but Darius wasn’t deterred; he was all about helping the dogs, and cats, too. “They were very supportive every step of the way,” he said.
Darius started by calling the ASPCA in New York City and local animal shelters in his home state of New Jersey. “His sister took him, as I was scared of dogs at the time,” Joy said. “I was supportive though.” Joy had had an incident with a dog when she was younger. However, Darius’ work with dogs helped his mother get over her fears, and now she visits the shelters as well.
On his first visit to the ASPCA, Darius learned more about the overcrowding at shelters across the country and how some dogs and cats are euthanized. He immediately knew he wanted to help even more. “He came home and said, ‘I have to make it my mission,’” Joy said.
He originally set out to help the dog and cat victims of the hurricanes, but he knew he had to do more. “I made it my mission to help as many dogs as possible and to help dogs worldwide so they could find their forever, loving homes,” he said.
Whenever Darius had free time he made bow ties to donate to shelters. He would also go to meet the dogs himself. He visited the Associated Humane Societies, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, which had also taken in dogs from Hurricane Harvey, and many others.
This past summer, Darius created his own “Pawsome Mission” with a goal to visit at least five animal shelters to donate his bow ties. This past summer’s agenda included shelters in Virginia, Chicago, Michigan, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC. More shelters found out and they want him to visit as well. Darius has a goal of visiting all 50 states.
Joy and Dazhai helped start a GoFundMe account to help with the mission. “He is getting a lot of support from fans on social media,” Joy said, which includes supporters sending fabric and material as well as donations. Darius makes the bow ties by hand and uses a sewing machine.
He donated bow ties to all the shelters he visited, received tours of the facilities, and met and interacted with the dogs and cats. He highlighted those who had been at the shelters the longest, placed the bow ties on them, took photos, and spread the word on his social media. Many of them got adopted.
“It helps me when I meet the dogs because it gives me encouragement to keep on pushing and striving and never give up,” Darius said. “This way I can help as many dogs and cats in the world as I can.”
Darius even sacrificed his basketball this past summer so he could visit the shelters. Whenever he has a full school break he wants to continue meeting the dogs and volunteering. “At the Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter, he got five dogs adopted in one day,” Joy said.
Shelters inform Darius when dogs or cats have been adopted because of his bow ties. He has received grateful emails from shelter staff with words of inspiration. “It’s sort of like a payment because it comes from the heart,” Darius said. “I am very grateful to people who say kind words to me. It also makes me feel good as a person and that I am making a difference in my community to help dogs and cats find homes while saving their lives.”
His classmates are also supportive and proud of Darius. Last year, his history teacher included Darius in a poster of great leaders that also included President Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.
Darius is also the youngest designer to participate in the New York Pet Fashion Show. He attended in 2018, 2019, and will be included in the 2020 show.
Along with President Obama, Darius has received praise and support from famous folks including retired NBA player Allan Houston, Michael Strahan, Walt Frazier, and actress Kenya Moore. His story has been on various TV and radio shows, including the Rachael Ray Show, Hallmark Channel, People Magazine, and Access Live. He even received a $1,000 gift card from Joann’s to buy fabric.
Darius has big plans for the future that include helping kids start businesses of their own and encouraging them to give back to their own communities. He wants to include helping the dogs and cats in those areas to find their loving, forever homes by encouraging people to adopt.
No matter what he does in life, Darius said he will always help animals.
“I want to encourage people to adopt and don’t shop,” Darius said. “I want people to adopt a dog because dogs’ lives are similar to humans. We are all equal and we are all God’s creations. Dogs need love like humans need love.”
Featured image: Courtesy Sir Darius Brown