December 3, 2010


Alex Dymek Drinkwater, 2, is on the receiving end of a bedroom makeover by
PJ Davey of Nashua, owner of Paint It Forward.
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- PJ Davey painted his way through college. His resulting career as a software salesman lasted six years — which turned out to be six years too long, once he realized he’d already found his calling. It involved paint brushes, not sales pitches. “I just didn’t feel comfortable in that profession — it just wasn’t me. But it was hard to justify building this career in software and them jumping back into painting. I knew that if I was going to do that, it would have to be more than just another painting business,” said Davey, of Nashua. 
PJ Davey sands the walls in Alex Dymek Drinkwater's bedroom,
which will now be more conducive to his daily autism therapy sesssions.
As fate would have it, he’d been ruminating on all of this while watching TV when the movie “Pay It Forward” came on. The film is about a boy who is challenged by his teacher to come up with an idea to change the world and then put it into action.  He had also been influenced by the work of Blake Mycoskie, founder of Tom’s Shoes, a business that donates a pair of shoes to kids in need for every pair it sells.  “I was trying to work out on paper how to use those ideas in a business model, but as I sketched it out, it looked like a pyramid scheme. So I went into the kitchen to get something, and when I came back I saw my drawing upside down, and that’s when I realized how it could work,” Davey said. 
He came up with Paint It Forward, based on the premise that for every 10 rooms Davey paints, he sets aside 10 percent of his profit to give back to the community by donating his services to those in need — someone who has served their country, suffered from disability or survived a traumatic illness. 
His first makeover was for Corbin Thibeault, a 4 year old from Londonderry with autism. Corbin’s mom, Katie Thibeault, had grown up with Davey, attending the same elementary and middle schools.  They reconnected on Facebook, where she learned about his fledgling business, and he learned about the cause closest to her heart.  
“PJ saw my Autism Speaks page for Corbin and asked me if we wanted to work with him on a project. I had no idea at the time what he was offering,” said Thibeault. 
But what Davey was offering was a chance to repaint and reorganize the room her sons shared, from a cluttered, distracting playroom to a toned down, homeschool-ready haven.  
Alex with his team of therapists, from Easter Seals and
the Londonderry School District.
“It’s night and day. It’s completely changed Corbin’s demeanor. He’s having fewer meltdowns. Really, it’s more of a learning center. It’s amazing, and it’s certainly not anything we could have afforded to do on our own,” Thibeault said.  
With one charitable makeover under his belt, Davey is ready to unveil makeover No.  2 — a bedroom for 2-year-old Alex Dymek Drinkwater, a happy-go-lucky boy whose autism diagnosis means that, despite an above-average ability to solve puzzles and understand the world around him, he has no ability to put his thoughts into words. 
“He can’t communicate verbally, or dress himself. He doesn’t eat food,” said his mother, Lynette Dymek. “He started to eat baby food at about six months, but developed food issues right away — coughing and gagging on anything you’d put into his mouth.”  
Although he was born without complications, Alex spent five days in the neonatal unit after doctors realized he had a hypersensitivity to light.  He started receiving physical therapy at the age of six months.  
“He’s so happy and pleasant, I feel lucky that way. But he’s also very complicated. He’s never slept in his own room — it was actually filled with toys and furniture and clothing, until PJ started working on it,” said Dymek. “He sleeps in a crib in my room, and tends to be a bit of a hoarder. That’s something we’re working on with him.” 
It was Stephanie Mendes of Easter Seals, one of Alex’s occupational therapists, who contacted Davey about doing a room makeover, after she’d heard about what Davey had done for the Thibeaults, also Easter Seals clients. 
Alex’s father, Allen Drinkwater, is a third-shift postal worker based in Massachu-setts, the family’s sole source of income ever since Dymek was laid off from DHL, where she had suffered a work-related back injury prior to losing her job. She still struggles with back pain and has limited mobility. 
“Our income was cut in half,” said Drinkwater. “We’re doing everything we can to keep going, but it’s hard. But we’ve found a wonderful network of support. We’re getting the best therapy available for Alex, and that’s taken the stress out of my life. This is going to mean the world for Alex.” 
When Davey heard Alex’s story, he knew it was the right thing to do. 
“He didn’t have a room to call his own, it was just stacked with stuff. So over the last few weeks we’ve worked with his family, organizing and consigning some of the excess things,” Davey said. 
PJ Davey prepares for a second coat of paint on a bedroom makeover
donated by his company, Paint It Forward.
In the meantime, as word of his business circulated on Facebook, Davey was getting offers from people who wanted to help, including an old friend with connections at Kaplan University in Maine.  “I was invited up there to talk to the early education and business classes about Paint It Forward, and they actually got involved in the project to makeover Alex’s room,” Davey said. 
The students worked out a design for the room and a list of items needed to make it happen — putting them over the $900 budget Davey had set aside for the job.
  “They ended up holding a fundraiser at school, an Italian lunch — everyone brought in a dish and they raised $300 to pay for the extra items they wanted to put into Alex’s room,” Davey said. He believes his 10-for-1 business model could easily be replicated in all kinds of industry, and he’s hoping his efforts might inspire other entrepreneurs. 
“A lot of other companies have the ability to adopt a hybrid model like this,” Davey said. “I just want to prove that it works, that you are truly successful when you give something back.”  
On the Web: www.paintitforwardnh com 

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