With her eyes welling up, and tears beginning to form, Claire Fitzsimmons, of Kansas City states, “We are stronger together, than we are apart. The rainbow is... life. It’s love. It’s forgiveness”, as she recently spoke in an interview on Fox 4 Kansas City, regarding her participation in the charity fundraising event in which our company organized for the Orlando shooting victims and their families.
For us, this quote just about sums up all that we here at Apple Pie Painting have come to stand for. It is now the driving force in our vision and our mission. My wife April and I have found ourselves committed to one common goal, of uniting people, to create memories, share stories, and laughter; and to heal; all while allowing for each participant's own creative juices to flow freely onto their blank canvas. For us, this has become our realization, our passion, and the direction our company has realized, and chosen to head down.
Having started with only a revolutionary idea, and a new way of thinking, in our young industry, known as “sip and paint”, in the beginning, our initial goal was to bring the industry direct to the consumer, no longer restricted by brick and mortar. As Co-founder Joey Kramer states, “when my wife, and business partner, April Kramer, first set out to create a new business model, we had only one vision; to bring convenience, affordability, and art to the masses, in a more personalized and intimate setting. This would allow for friends, families, and coworkers to unite for a fun experience, all while tossing back a few cocktails in the process. Sounded like a lot of fun, why not give it a shot? Little did we know, that what we had originally envisioned would be far more impactful than either of us could have ever imagined.
As for me, that moment of true realization in our cause came just this past January, as I was compiling a slide show presentation for an upcoming event. Only then did I begin to see the true impact of what we were really providing people, on a personal level. After sifting through photos from over 300 painting parties we performed the previous year, (in just our first full year in business), did I come to realize something that struck me like a freight train. I called to April to come and see what I had discovered. Together, we began to see that the images had one thing in common, the genuine smiles, laughter, and connection that was happening at our parties. We witnessed happiness, pride, friendships, and even, tears of achievement on the faces of all those, with whom we had brought our experience to. Having both realized what we were seeing, and more importantly, what we were doing, we knew right then and there, that what we were doing was much more impactful, and much more emotional than we ever could have imagined.
As the terrible incidents in Orlando, Florida, at the Pulse night club unfolded, April and I were genuinely heartbroken and saddened, left with more questions then answers. Together we wondered, how could someone, or something, so evil, think up such a horrific outcome for our fellow brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters? At that moment, the two of us began to brainstorm. Putting our heads together, we asked ourselves, how could we help? What do we have that we can offer? What can we do?
The very next day, April and I agreed on a plan. We both decided, what good is it to have a company that helps inspire people, and give back to those that are in need, if we are not helping to impact the very lives of those in our own community in a time of need. Our own friends, family, and neighbors were hurting, and this was our chance to make a difference. At that moment, and only 24 hours after this tragedy, we decided that we could, and that we would make a difference. Over the course of the next 48 hours, April and I worked tirelessly contacting, and coordinated with multiple area bar owners, public officials, news outlets, and our own reach on social media, and put together a fundraiser we named, “Paint For Orlando”. Together, April created the custom painting, and gathered the troops, while I handled the promotions, media outreach, and the fundraising process.
With our already busy schedules, we knew finding time over the next few days would be a strain, but we decided that this cause was far too important to not take on. We swept our other commitments aside momentarily, and focused our energy to the end goal. In only 4 short days, we were able pull off an incredible event that helped to unite a community, which had been so heartbroken and violated by the actions of one heartless person. In organizing this event, we were able to bring together people of many different backgrounds, colors, creeds, and religions, for one common cause; to heal. Here, at our event, strangers become friends, memories were created, and stories shared, all while those impacted by the tragedy, began the long process of healing. A process that both April and I feel we were able to help be a part of, if only in our own small way.
Over the course of the last 6 months, together, we have found that our company provides us a vehicle to give back, in more ways than we had every first realized. Having now provided charity events for organizations, the likes of Children’s Mercy Hospital, the American Heart Foundation, and the Make a Wish Foundation, and many more, just to name a few, perhaps our biggest joy comes in our work with the Dreaming Zebra Foundation, a non-for-profit out of Portland, Oregon; which distributes our brushes and used art supplies world wide to impoverished children, both here at home and abroad. The satisfaction for us is in knowing that our brushes have reached locations as close as here in Kansas, at a school for autism, and as far as children in Africa, Haiti, and South East Asia. One of the greatest pleasures we indulge in is receiving mini canvases, or cards, painted by a child that has used and appreciated our donated supplies, letting their inner artist out. We both like to say to each other, perhaps we are helping spread art, and a chance for possibly the next Van Gogh, or Picasso to realize their talents, while hidden in a remote village, or small town across the globe. We believe, that thanks to our giving, they are now receiving an opportunity that truly allows these children to let the paint fly!
Yes, we are truly blessed in what we have created as a company, and in the lives we touch each and every day. Had we known from the beginning, that this company of ours would have lead to this, we would have laughed, and told ourselves, “we teach art to drunk people. What a fun job”! Honestly though, it has become so much more than that for the two of us. Inspiring creativity, uniting friends, family, and coworkers, all while bringing together communities for the common good. Could we do it another way, yes, would we choose to, no! Therefore, we press on. On with our mission, and on with our hope that the rest of us out there, as a society, can combine our skills, talents, and passions, in order to bring this joy, this feeling of confidence, and inspiration to a world in desperate need of unity and love. At Apple Pie Painting, we believe in one simple motto, Life is short! Spend it with those that matter the most!