How one animal lover found a way to help pets find their forever homes, one bowtie at a time.

Sir Darius Brown and dog
Sir Darius Brown and a rescue pup, both wearing Sir Darius's bow tie designs.
| Credit: Courtesy of Sir Darius Brown

Sir Darius Brown, a 14-year-old in Newark, New Jersey, has always been the kind of softhearted animal lover who smiled anytime he passed a dog. He dreamed of having one of his own but it was against the rules in his family's apartment building. As a then-8-year-old with speech, cognition, and fine-motor delays, he also wouldn't be able to shoulder much of the pet-care responsibilities.

So Sir Darius instead focused his energy on helping his sister Dazhai, 10 years his senior and his best friend. As a hairstylist, she sewed and sold hair bows. Sir Darius helped her by cutting fabric and worked his way up to mastering the sewing machine. Soon he was making bows for his sister's business and crafting his own bow ties to wear to school. He'd found a hobby he enjoyed, one that eventually helped him test out of learning delays.

But watching the news in the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, he was upset seeing hundreds of displaced pets. "I was so torn up and wanted to help," he says, but his family had limited resources. "So I thought, How can I use my passion and my skills to help them find homes?" The answer: bow ties. "I realized I could make and donate bow ties to animal shelters so cats and dogs would look more dapper and adorable," he says. "If the bow tie blings, it makes the pet stand out and might be that little extra boost of cuteness that helps them get adopted."

Animal shelters agreed. Sir Darius has donated bow ties, each of which takes up to 25 minutes to make, to 30 shelters in 7 states, totaling more than 1,000 so far. The bow ties, in a variety of bright colors and patterns, are cute enough to stop an online pet searcher mid-scroll, and shelter workers say they've helped with boosting adoption rates. Now his goal is to deliver bow ties to shelters in all 50 states...and to be a pet owner himself one day.

"I want to go to Stanford to study business law and help minority-owned businesses," he says. "I also plan to have a whole house full of rescue cats and dogs—hopefully including a Pomeranian and a dachshund. And I want to continue my mission to save as many animals as I can. I hope others get inspired and want to help me create more bow ties to help even more pets get adopted." 

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2021 issue. Get the magazine here