APPLETON, Wis. — It isn't every day a handful of police officers don aprons and set to work painting, but that's exactly what they did on a recent Friday.
Five officers from the Fox Valley Metro Police Department worked alongside individuals with disabilities during an art workshop at the Crafty Wood Maker Studio.
The workshop was held in conjunction with IntoWishin' Arts, an aspiring benefit corporation started by Jim Weidert and his 22-year-old son, Henry Weidert.
IntoWishin' Arts is in the final stretch of a crowdfunding campaign on the website Indiegogo. Jim Weidert and Henry Weidert hope to raise about $23,500 before the end of the month. They have already raised $12,500.
Henry Weidert did an internship with Fox Valley Metro when he was a student at Kimberly High School, so when the officers heard about his new business venture, they knew they had to get involved.
"Have you met Henry?" asked Mark Wery, the school resource officer at Kimberly High School. "Henry's the happiest guy. When we heard about this, we thought it was an incredibly cool thing and we wanted to support him."
The police department will highlight the start-up on its social media accounts to drum up support before the fundraiser ends.
Jim Weidert, who works as a freelance graphic designer and marketer, said he and his wife, Linda Weidert, had been thinking about Henry Weidert's transition from school to adulthood, and where he would go next.
Henry Weidert has cerebral palsy, which has limited his physical and cognitive function but definitely not his attitude. He's a curious person who smiles easily.
When Henry Weidert was a sophomore at Kimberly High School, his art teacher entered one of his paintings in a contest through the nonprofit organization Very Special Arts, based in Madison. Henry Weidert won and attended a gallery showing and award ceremony along with other winners.
To commemorate the occasion, Jim Weidert had T-shirts made with Henry Weidert's painting on them. Every time Jim Weidert wore the shirt, people asked him where he got it.
"This design has an appeal that people would buy," Jim Weidert told the USA Today Network-Wisconsin .
That's how IntoWishin' Arts was born.
"My son has a creative capacity. ... He has a style of art that is attractive for creating cards and T-shirts and things like that. ... So I want to discover more people like him," Jim Weidert said. "I want to identify people with creative abilities and find a way to bring those abilities to a market."
The company will sell artwork created by Henry Weidert and other individuals with disabilities. Artists will receive royalties for their work.
In exchange, the company will use its profits to fund art workshops.
While they plan to partner with many organizations in east central Wisconsin, Jim Weidert said they have already had inquiries from groups around the country. IntoWishin' Arts will send workshop kits to those organizations and cover the cost of hiring an art educator to lead the event.
Initially, Jim Weidert reached out to nonprofit leaders in the Fox Cities to seek their advice about how to get started, and they all told him the idea sounded like a business — not a nonprofit.
So he kept doing research and decided that IntoWishin' Arts would be a benefit corporation, a for-profit business that uses its profits to make a difference in the community. Well-known benefit corporations include Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Patagonia.
While they believe their business will make a difference, Jim Weidert and Henry Weidert can't just declare their venture a B Corp. They have to go through a review process and receive accreditation to make it official.
"I literally can't be a B Corp. until I'm one year into my business structure and I've already sold products, so what I'm promising to do is that I'm going to structure and behave that way so that I get the accreditation," Jim Weidert said.
The group created a wooden panel featuring a sun Henry Weidert drew and one of his catchphrases, "It's a great day for anything!"
Under the direction of Katherine Wood, owner of the Crafty Wood Maker Studio, the group sanded and stained their boards, placed the stencils and painted their masterpieces.
Smiles, laughter and creativity dominated the afternoon.
Janelle Jung, of Darboy, sat next to Tiffany Tesch, a school resource officer for the Little Chute Area School District. The women worked together on their boards, discussing colors and techniques. Jung told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin she had fun working with Tesch.
Jung was still deciding what to do with her creation as the session came to an end.
"I might hang it in my room or I might give it to someone," she said.
Dominic Marshall, of Appleton, discussed the TV show "Impractical Jokers" with Officer Mike Lambie. Both men love the show and started talking about their favorite characters while they finished their boards.
Wood wanted to host the group because she knows how hard it is to get a business up and running.
Furthermore, she thinks the mission of IntoWishin' Arts is something everyone should support.
"I love it," she said. "I'm all about having people find their calling in life. Everybody needs art in their lives."
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