When she was in the third grade, a classmate asked her to pass the “skin-colored” crayon—a familiar request heard at her Leesburg elementary school. She understood her friend was asking for the peach-colored crayon, but it bothered her. Bellen Woodard was the only black girl in her class. Recognizing that there are many skin tones, she decided that in the future, when asked for the “skin-colored” crayon, she would respond “which one?” The spirit of inclusiveness Bellen advocated for was embraced by her fellow students and teachers, and soon the entire school stopped referring to the peach-colored crayon as skin-colored. Bellen did not, however, think the change should end at the doors to her school. In 2019—with the support of her family—she created the More Than Peach Project™.
Using money she had saved, Bellen ordered crayons in a diverse array of skin tones, packed them into kits along with sketchpads, and began working toward a goal of donating one to each of the 80,000 students in her community. The project received national attention, and Bellen began receiving requests for coloring kits from across the country—including one from the VMHC. Originally focused on ushering in change in her community, Bellen said that “to know that I’ve made a huge impact around the United States and parts of the world [is an] amazing feeling.”