AZ Giving and Leading: Paper Clouds Apparel

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See how the owner of a local clothing company is giving more than just the shirt off his back to help those with special needs.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona Giving and Leading looks at a Phoenix man who's found a unique way to raise money for special needs organizations. Shana FISCHER introduces us to --

Shana Fischer: With every T-shirt printed, Paper Clouds Apparel is changing lives.

Robert Thornton: Artwork individual with special needs created, transfer that to the shirts, hats, bags, and we team up with different special needs cause every two weeks and we sell their artwork on the web site. For two weeks, 50% of the proceeds go back to that special needs, school, cause, organization.

Shana Fischer: Robert Thornton started Paper Clouds Apparel after a visit to his parents' house. Robert noticed a drawing on the refrigerator. His mom is a school bus driver for children with special needs. The drawing was made by a little girl on the bus.

Robert Thornton: I spent the entire night mesmerized by this drawing. It was different, but different in a cool way. I spent the entire night staring at it. The next morning I woke up, I thought, man, that would look cool on a T-shirt.

Shana Fischer: Before long, he had the idea for Paper Clouds Apparel. He chose to focus on people with special needs because they're often overlooked by society.

Robert Thornton: You know, for too long, people have treated those with special needs like they kind of -- they want to put them in the corner, don't have to deal with them, I want to be like no, I want to put you on a pedestal and show you that you are talented, that you can contribute to society. You have skills and you need to be appreciated.

Shana Fischer: Paper Clouds Apparel has raised money for dozens of organizations across the country. Not only does Robert showcase drawings made by kids with special needs, he employs adults with special needs in the packaging department.

Robert Thornton: 80 to 93% of adults with special needs aren't employed. That's ridiculous. If more businesses focused on helping people instead of just the bottom line, bottom line, bottom line, like this world would be a much better place.

Shana Fischer: Robert is determined to make the world a better place one T-shirt at a time.

Robert Thornton: I just feel that I'm doing what I was brought here to do. You can change the world. You know, you just have to believe in it. It is not going to be easy, you know, but if you -- if you're doing the right thing and you work hard at it, you can do whatever you want to do.

Ted Simons: Paper Clouds Apparel is always looking for new designs. If you know someone who would like to contribute a design, visit their web site,

Ted Simons: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon," self-driving car developed by students at the U of A and around the country. How new online privacy rules in the European Union could affect you. That's Thursday evening at right here on "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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