By Emily Williams, News Editor
When Drew saw the older woman sitting sullenly in her seat at the hairdresser, he didn’t know that she had just lost her husband of over 50 years. He did, however, know that he could put a smile on her face.
Drew handed the woman a piece of paper with a simple, hand-drawn rainbow on it. By the end of their interaction, the woman was sobbing as she thanked the boy for his kind gesture.
Drew, 17, has the cognitive ability of about a 7-year-old. Despite that, said David Leurck, Drew’s father and Miami’s director of corporate relations, Drew understands something that many of people don’t.
“People can so easily get caught up in themselves. We don’t get it sometimes — what’s important,” Leurck said. “Drew gets it.”
The message of Drew’s drawings are simple: rainbows mean love. When he doesn’t have a hand-drawn rainbow at the ready, Drew also passes out cards with of picture of one his many rainbow drawings and the words, “You’re special.”
CopyHouse Films, a film production company founded by Miami graduates, will be telling Drew’s story in a short documentary titled “Drew Gets It!” The film will be funded through Indiegogo, a site that allows people to collect donations to fund films, launch start-up businesses or fundraise for charities.
Konrad Norris, along with co-founders Bryce Norris and Coleton Kidwell, graduated from the Farmer School of Business in 2013. They founded CopyHouse films just before attending Miami University, and, during college traveled all over the country, from Alaska to California to Georgia, doing projects for clients in addition to numerous projects for the university.
Kidwell first met Leurck when he taught one of his business courses. The two stayed in touch, and Kidwell first heard Drew’s full story when he was invited to have dinner with the Leurcks.
“Coleton saw a unique opportunity to tell a story,” said Norris. “It’s such a powerful story.”
Over the years, CopyHouse Films, now based in Nashville, Tenn. has done commercial projects with companies like Procter and Gamble, Neilsen and Unilever as well as developed a portfolio of work for nonprofits.
“That’s been a huge passion area for us,” said Norris.
They connected with Drew right away, Norris said. He acted like they were already best friends even when they had just met.
“He’s not distracted by the things we’re distracted by,” said Norris. “He totally focuses on human interaction, and I think that’s what makes him so special and unique.”
On Wednesday, April 19, members of four student organizations—the Best Buddies Friends Choir, Delta Sigma Pi, Pi Sigma Epsilon and Chi Omega—passed out information about Drew’s rainbows and packs free Skittles at tables decorated with columns of rainbow balloons that were set up at the Phi Delt gates, the Sundial, the Armstrong Student Center Terrace and the Farmer School of Business gates.
Drew himself helped out with the event, moving from station to station throughout the day to meet students pass out postcards with information about how to donate.
The film, which will run about 20 minutes in length, will follow Drew’s story from birth until now. The film will also focus on the family’s journey with him and their path from understanding to accepting to celebrating how Drew has changed their lives.
“He continues to teach us,” wrote Drew’s mom, Katherine, on their website, Drew’s Rainbows.
Drew treats everyone with the same level of kindness and acceptance without regard for difference, his father said.
“He doesn’t see anybody differently,” said Leurck. “He looks at everybody the same.”
Over the past ten years, Drew has drawn over 3,000 rainbows — at least one a day and, oftentimes, more. This past September, the Leurck family decided to showcase Drew’s artistic work by covering their Hyde Park home in hundreds of Drew’s rainbow drawings.
The effort drew an extremely positive response, prompting an overwhelming number of letters, comments over social media and even an overnight FedEx package of 30 rainbow drawings from an eighth grade class in Indianapolis.
Even though Leurck knew that Drew’s teenage experience would be very different from most, he said that sharing his son’s artwork and message of kindness in that way was just as rewarding as it would be to see him throw a touchdown pass.
“That was Drew’s Friday night,” said Leurck. “It was his chance to shine.”
The campaign officially launched on Indiegogo Monday afternoon. The page features a video about Drew’s story, several pictures of Drew and his family and descriptions for 11 different levels of donations—anywhere from $5 to $10,000—that people can give to help the family reach their goal of $25,000.
Each donation level comes with a corresponding perk. Donors can receive anything from a thank you video from Drew to an original rainbow drawing to the chance to be an extra on the film set.
Leurck reached out to senior Tanner McClellan, the awareness chair for Miami’s Best Buddies Friends Choir, for help with Wednesday’s launch.
“It’s inspiring to see what he’s done for his son and for his family, but also what he wants to do for the whole community,” said McClellan. “It’s a great cause, and we’re excited to get involved.”
Collaborating with Drew’s Rainbow Foundation was an obvious choice, McClellan said—working toward awareness and advocacy for the disability population is a team effort.
“With all organizations in this field, it’s never a competition,” said McClellan. “We always support each other because we all have the same end goal.”
Once the film is completed, they will be submitting it to ReelAbilities, a biannual film festival based in Cincinnati that feature films by and about people with disabilities that give insight into the diversity of the human experience.
“Our big goal is to tell his story,” said Leurck. “It’s such a positive story, with a clear, simple message: be kind.”