Rulon guitars sick children, Florida company uses scrap wood.
A manufacturing company in St. Augustine, Fla. is turning scrapwood into toy guitars for children around the world.
In 2016, Wayne Robison, Rulon International’s president and CEO, came up with the idea to turn scrap into 10,000 guitars and donate them to sick children around the world.
Three years later, the company is over halfway toward realizing that goal.
The company — which produces wood ceilings and acoustical walls — turns out small, wooden toy guitars. Each guitar is fine-tuned and ready to create music in orphanages and hospital corridors.
“With sick children it’s proven, that two things that help them get through their illnesses are music and animals” said Eleanor Robison, Wayne’s wife.
Local elementary and middle schools have integrated the design phase of the guitars within their own art programs.
Rulon began the program with its first donation to an orphanage in Haiti. The company sent painted guitars over for their children. As a result, it was asked to send unfinished guitars for the children to paint and decorate themselves to give to others.
The children in the orphanage later took their finished products to another orphanage for disabled children.
“We feel a responsibility to give back to those less fortunate, and commit a portion of our profits toward a variety of children’s orphanages, youth camps and charities worldwide,” according to the company’s website.
The guitars are as creative as the program itself, coming in four or five shapes and styles, all uniquely decorated.
They come pre-decorated, raw or with a base-coat, a single solid color that allows children to decorate it the way they want. The handles of each guitar are microbial and germ-free.
Tim Tyler, the company’s program coordinator, said that a raw guitar is tuned with no paint or artistic design to it. He said most of his inquiries about the guitars now are those seeking the raw product.
While the idea originated with enlisting local artistic talent to finish each guitar, the program spread like wildfire as organizations far and wide began to reach out looking to get involved, by painting those raw guitars themselves.
The company has included family and friends overseas, with members on Eleanor Robison’s side producing hand-painted guitars they delivered to a hospital in their hometown in Scotland.
“The blessing goes on; it doesn’t just stop with the child,” she said.
Over the summer, Rulon sent guitars to several cancer and critical-illness camps where the kids would have a class a day to paint their guitars and take it home at the end of camp.
“A lot of them use it as more of a two-way process. Number one, the kids actually get to make it their own, and number two, they get to take it home,” Tyler said.
Guitars have reached over 50 hospitals and charity groups. The best part is they’re just getting started.
A unique group that partnered with Guitars for Children is Band of the Strong in Nebraska. The organization is a nonprofit, with the mission to give musical opportunities to kids in need, whether that is the death of loved ones, unexpected illnesses or economic hardship.
Tyler said that every couple of months Guitars for Children sends from 60-100 guitars to the organization.
On its website, they lead with the catchphrase “Allowing the Melody to Move us Forward.”
Another unique organization that worked with Guitars for Children is Rodeheaver’s Boys Ranch, located 12 miles south of Palatka, along the shores of the St Johns River.
Rodeheaver Boys Ranch provides a wholesome home environment with social, educational, spiritual and vocational training for up to 50 at-risk young men who, because of parental death, desertion, divorce and/or disability, have no home of their own, according to its website.
Part of the enrichment experience for every child includes building guitars in their woodworking shop to get them ready for donation elsewhere, said Eleanor Robison.
Every guitar today is manufactured in-house within the company’s factory.
The paint used on the guitars is recycled, as well. The factory itself is void of fumes since there are no chemicals in any of the paint used in the factory.
That detail is one of many incorporated by Rulon to be more environmentally friendly.
Once all of the parts are compiled, the guitars are put together until finished. The last thing that goes on is the strings as each guitar is tuned to play.
“I don’t think we’ll ever stop” said Tyler.
Eleanor Robison envisions teaming up with as many schools in the greater Jacksonville area as possible.
“I would like to somehow get into each school, and have them have an art class to make guitars, so the children are getting their art lessons, but they’re also helping other children” said Robison.