Boy’s Dragon T-shirts Raise Money for Autism
Santino Stagliano from Philadelphia is only 10 years old and already owns a global non-profit business. So, what’s his story?
Santino has autism, diagnosed at the age of five, and for years he found socialising and loud environments difficult to deal with. He wasn’t very verbal and he wasn’t one for hugs.
Back in April, Santino hadn’t had a good day. To help cheer him up, his parents gave him a plain white T-shirt and some markers and told him to draw his favourite creature, a dragon. Santino found the most effective way of expressing his own emotions is to draw dragons with those feelings, so he draws a lot of the mythical beasts.
After finishing his drawing, his mum Lisa took a photo of him wearing it and posted the picture on Facebook. Lots of people saw and liked the post, and started requesting T-shirts of their own.
It started off as a small project, creating a few shirts here and there, but soon global interested picked up and ‘Santino’s Dragon Drawings’ was born.
When the little boy saw all of the requests for his dragon shirts, he felt the world finally understood him – and that’s when his transformation began.
“He has come alive and I no longer as a mother have to guess what he is feeling or thinking,” said Lisa. “He is expressing it! For any autistic parents, that is a miracle.”
Santino’s Dragon Drawings has orders numbering in the thousands, and with each T-shirt selling for $15 (£9), the project is seriously making an impact. Some of the proceeds go to Philadelphia’s Center for Autism, where Santino spends one day a week, and his first donation to the centre was for a whopping $2,500 (£1,900)!
“It is just tremendous to see him doing so well,” said centre CEO David Maola. “It was his idea to donate the money, which is amazing.”
So, selling the shirts is not only helping Santino’s outlook on life become more positive, but it is also helping other children with autism. Santino’s dad Mario said that they would do anything they could to help other children with autism and their families and that the amount of support the project has received has been overwhelming.
And Santino’s work – though he doesn’t see it as such – has been recognised by the Philadelphia city council which awarded him with an honour in May.
“Through the whole thing, we see miracles,” said Lisa. “In a little boy who did not like clouds, people, and empathy, something started to change.”
Why not visit the company’s Facebook page to learn more about Santino and his dragon drawings. Alternatively, if you’d like to buy one of the T-shirts (hats are also available), you can do so online, here.