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Phoenix man’s creative idea draws good karma, national attention

PHOENIX — A child’s hand-drawn picture on a refrigerator sparked the little Phoenix nonprofit that could.

Robert Thornton’s Paper Clouds Apparel makes and sells T-shirts and caps based on artwork drawn by or inspired by children with special needs.

Part of the money goes to a various causes, and he hires special-needs workers to pack them up for shipping.

Thornton was featured Friday on a segment of the “Today” show.

His company has managed to raise $87,000 for autism awareness, childhood cancer, genetic disorders and child advocacy, among others.

The sales are organized into campaigns that last two weeks.

“The first campaign I was like, holy smoke, people really like these designs and they like the cause and this could grow into something really, really big,” Thornton told the morning show.

He got the idea while looking at a picture on his mother’s refrigerator. A special-needs child on the school bus she drives made it for her.

Thornton said he admired the picture and thought it would look great on a T-shirt.

Lots of work later, he made that happen.

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