The coronavirus pandemic left many feeling anxious, isolated and stressed.
Jon Boyd was one of them. The 28-year-old wanted to find a way to help others who were struggling with isolation and their mental health, just like he was.
In November, Boyd teamed up with two friends, Macy Kober and Cherly Weber, whom he had met through art events in Tampa Bay. They found a way to spotlight their hometown and help those struggling with their mental health during the pandemic.
They created a coloring book.
The Tampa trio released KEEO Community Coloring Book on Feb. 1. It features 30 Tampa Bay sites and sights — from Busch Gardens to the Dalí Museum, from Sunken Gardens to the University of Tampa, from manatees to the Ybor chickens.
The coloring book is illustrated by Weber, an illustrator and muralist who works under the pseudonym Jujmo. Motivational messages appear throughout the book to help people get through the pandemic and its hardships.
The coloring book is the first initiative carried out by KEEO Cares, a community service organization founded in January by Boyd and Kober. Keeo meaning “cares” in Korean.
Boyd says one of the reasons they created the coloring book was to emphasize “the importance of community and the importance of helping each other.”
“I think we have kind of got to this point where a lot of uncool things are popular like no one has really made giving back like trending,” Boyd said. “Like there’s this whole world where we’re not really helping each other, we’re kind of just wanting to be better than everybody else ... so we just wanted to do something cool and make it popular.”
The first run sold out in less than 24 hours. They’ve sold 100 coloring books so far at $20 apiece and plan to donate 25 percent of the proceeds to mental health programs across Tampa Bay. The coloring book is available online only for now, but Boyd says they soon plan to sell it in stores.
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The trio chose to do a coloring book because coloring has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Boyd said coloring generates “mindfulness and quietness, which allows your mind to get some rest after a long day of work or a long year in quarantine.”
Boyd said he grew up daydreaming about how to help others. When he worked at Disney English, he said he taught children in China how to speak English, which led him to spend his 25th birthday in Tokyo.
Boyd wanted to top that birthday and believed the only way he could do so was by being “truly selfless.” For his 26th birthday, he rented out an ice cream truck and drove it around Tampa Bay, giving away more than 500 ice cream cones in May 2019. Boyd said he raised more than $3,000 and donated it to foster care organizations.
After seeing Boyd’s charitable acts, Kober approached Boyd in October with the idea of starting a community organization.
“We came together about this because we both believe that there are many people out there that genuinely care and don’t know how to be involved and give back,” Kober said. “The more that we give back, we begin to build up members of our community because we’re not only helping our community, but any of our friends or people we come across who need help.”
The coloring book is an example of the mission of KEEO Cares, which wants to help people who want to help their communities but don’t know where to start. KEEO Cares wants to launch projects, products and ideas unique to someone’s cause or organization.
Since then, the trio says the community’s reaction to the coloring book has been positive. Boyd says they plan to meet Tampa city officials this month to discuss a communitywide coloring day so residents can come out, color and donate to a good cause.
To learn more about KEEO Cares, visit keeocares.com.