Corwin’s wide-set eyes, long legs and whiskers can be captivating. Or could it be his long ears resting on his shoulders that make him so endearing?
Corwin, a rabbit with red sneakers in a superhero cape, whose name means “heart’s friend,” is the creation of Christine Carr, physical education teacher at East Greenwich’s Frenchtown Elementary School.
“We all need a friend for our heart,” says Christine
A 1989 graduate of Pilgrim High School, Christine was the first female Athlete of the Year award winner featured by former Warwick Beacon sports editor Deb Weinreich.
“I’ve always been athletic,” Christine shares, “but I always doodled on notebooks, and on cards sent to friends.”
Last year, on her Dec. 31st birthday, her oldest sister, Sharon, an English teacher at E.T. Wynman Elementary School in Warwick, called with a cryptic message: Christine would be receiving a package. Her mission? “Do something with it!” was all Sharon would say.
The mysterious parcel arrived, containing “80 colored craft cards, with cool markers,” Christine recalls with enthusiasm. “It was just the nudge I needed.”
In 2009, Christine, a mother of three, published a book as an homage to all parents. Entitled “Mother Daze: Tales from the Imperfect Playground,” it is a humorous take on the “‘high-octane’ parenting issues,” complete with her delightful illustrations. “They were characters without names,” as she describes them, the predecessors of Corwin and his friends.
As the New Year of 2020 dawned, Christine unpacked the birthday box during her winter holiday break. She posted her new doodles on her Facebook page as COVID-19 loomed in the distance like a dark cloud. Her friends quickly found themselves looking forward to Christine’s Daily Doodle.
Her colleagues, who had begun returning from the winter holiday, were especially enamored with Corwin, the cartoon caped crusader, with the encouraging caption, “You’ve got this,” offering a two “thumbs up” hug. It was the perfect message to share with their students.
By February, the response to Corwin had been so positive that Christine’s good friend, Donna Evans, encouraged her to publish. Donna introduced her to Stan Reuter, the familiar looking owner of Allegra, a print shop in East Greenwich. Because the universe conspired to bring Corwin to life, or because it is Rhode Island, Stan turned out to be the grandfather of one of Christine‘s students. Armed with 20 black ink images on 50 white cards, Christine was ready to go to print.
Simultaneously, Donna’s husband, Joel – “a tech guy,” as Christine describes him – helped her create her website, ChrisCarrInk.com. By this time, Christine had 70 different Corwin cards printed.
“We’re all that 9-year-old kid; we don’t think we necessarily good at something,” Christine says. Sometimes all it really takes is a little nudge.
Christine approached Graphic Expressions in Wakefield, and soon Corwin T-shirts and baby onesies were being produced for her website. The Corwin revolution grew as Stan at Allegra printed Corwin stickers.
“Then, the pandemic hit,” Christine remembers. But by no means would she stop the presses.
In March, on Friday the 13th, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Rhode Island schools would be closed. Soon, Christine’s coworkers were sending uplifting Corwin cards to their students during lockdown. Two of their favorites feature Corwin with the very apropos quotations “Hang in there” and “Reach for the stars.”
The parents of her students downloaded the pictures for their children to color, which led to Christine’s next venture, also printed by Stan – “Corwin’s Super Cool Coloring and Activity Book,” which Christine calls a social/emotional coloring book. Corwin, in his trademark red tennis shoes, presents lessons such as “Play fair,” and “Be kind.”
“Corwin acts as an ambassador for goodness,” Christine describes as his mission. That goodness had spread faster than a pandemic, as the PTA paid for the printing of 500 copies for every kindergarten through second-grade child in East Greenwich at Meadowbrook and Frenchtown elementary schools during distance learning in the spring. Additional copies were provided to Family Services of Rhode Island as part of their summer packets distributed to families. The movement of kindness was growing exponentially.
“Some people have never sent cards, and now they say it feels so good. Knowing that someone is thinking of you is a soul-pumping power!” Christine says with a smile. A glimpse of her timely Daily Doodle on her Chris Carr Ink Facebook page is one healthy dose of positivity.
Corwin gear has landed in 15 states, as far west as California and as far south as Florida.
Christine’s Corwin cards, along with face masks, apparel, mugs, coasters and magnets featuring Corwin, may be found on her website, ChrisCarrInk.com. She even makes local deliveries.
Corwin cards are carried at these six Rhode Island stores: Fuller Gallery (Jamestown), The Purple Cow (South Kingstown), Bags By Iris (East Greenwich), J.W. Graham/Yes! Gallery (Wickford), White Light Books (Cranston), and Crosswynds Traders (Narragansett, where Corwin T-shirts are also sold.) Corwin also makes an appearance at Harbor Gallery in Norfolk, Virginia.
Her recent projects include partnering with the Domestic Resource Center to raise funds for its programming through the sale of Corwin T-shirts. Christine is currently working with Anchor Paws Animal Rescue to donate 15 percent of sales to assist that organization’s programs.
Opening that Pandora’s Box on her New Year’s Eve birthday was a gift not just to Christine, but to everyone.
Christine reflects upon Corwin’s impact since his creation in January.
“The world needs kindness now more than ever,” she says.