ROMEOVILLE – Tyler Garrett-Neilson is an inventor. He is also an artist, designer, businessman and 8-years old Hermansen Elementary School third-grader.
Several years ago, Tyler – who lives with a mild form of autism – sketched some drawings, cut them out and hung them on the walls of his Romeoville home. The cartoon-like characters had big heads with spiked hair and tiny arms and legs.
“All of them were kinda like stuffed animals,” said Tyler, who modeled them after his father’s Mohawk haircut. “Some of them were a little strange because they have those spikes.”
He called them his “spikeyhairs.”
“They sat there for a couple of years and I’m not quite sure what gave me the idea, but I just looked at them and thought this would be really cool to make a stuffed animal,” said Tyler’s grandfather, Paul Richards, who is a former counselor at Valley View's Phoenix Experience. “I did some research and found a company that would match it perfectly with the drawings.”
Thus was born the “Spikeyhairs” company.
“Our mission is to help other children and families, like our own, who live with autism on a daily basis,” Richards said. “To that end, once we get production going, Spikeyhairs will always donate at least 25 percent of the profits of sales of Spikeyhairs merchandise to charities and organizations that directly benefit such families.”
The Richards are trying to raise $8,900 by midnight July 6 to make the first 500 Spikeyhairs plush toys. To raise money, they using the website Indiegogo.com
Whether they hit their goal or not, Richards plans on helping the Hermansen autism program by selling Spikeyhairs T-shirts and wristbands at a fundraiser next school year.
He also hopes to create a Spikeyhairs Foundation to fund special projects like sending siblings of children with autism to camp to learn about living with brothers and sisters who have autism.
Additionally, Tyler wants to create Spikeyhairs pajamas, a mouse pad and a tablet cover case.
“Tyler is very good-natured and caring," Richards said. "When he’s finished with a toy, he always wants to donate it to someplace like Goodwill. That’s where we got the idea to help other children with autism.”
Information on Spikeyhairs can be found at: http://spikeyhairs.com, and at: www.indiegogo.com/projects/spikeyhairs