Paula Lazardo never planned to paint baby helmets for a living, but life has a funny way of taking us right where we need to be.
The Washington state grandmother said she’s always loved art, so when a friend asked her to transform a baby’s practical medical helmet into something more fun, she enthusiastically agreed.
These helmets are used to help infants’ heads form correctly. They’re only needed for the 10 percent of little ones who have plagiocephaly, a condition that flattens part of their soft skulls.
As soon as the baby’s doctor saw Paula’s decorations on the helmet, he knew countless other patients would want one too — and helped spread the word!
“He saw value in having the helmet painted for his clients,” Paula said. “It was just one of those snowball things… and now it’s virtually 99 percent of what I do is paint for babies! Which is the best job ever.”
Since that first time in 1996, Paula has painted over 3,000 helmets! She still can’t believe something so simple has changed so many lives for the better, including her own.
“It’s like, ‘Who knew? Who knew?!’ I didn’t wake up one day and think, ‘I’m going to get into the helmet business,'” Paula said. “It’s just a really happy thing being able to do this.”
One of the reasons her work is so impactful is that these babies have to wear their protective gear day and night for several months.
To accommodate this pressing need, Paula often has her clients ship helmets to her overnight. She then creates a work of art and sends it back to them within 24 hours.
The artist uses only water-based nontoxic paint for her creations and charges about $200-$350 per helmet.
Her most popular design themes are aviators, sports logos, Captain America, “Where The Wild Things Are,” and motorcycle helmets. She also takes requests and does custom jobs as long as parents send her a picture or a link showing what they want.
Paula’s hope is to turn these medical tools into something fun that any kid would love to wear! She also wants to ease the stigma around babies who wear helmets, especially for parents who have to constantly explain them to strangers.
“It’s such a worthwhile thing to see babies look so cute and happy and parents be overjoyed and be able to have conversations with people where the person is looking at the helmet saying, ‘That is so cute! What is this for?’ They’re not saying, ‘Oh my gosh your poor baby,'” Paula added.
Of course, the best part about her job is bringing so many people joy!
“That’s what I love about the art that I’ve been able to do in my life: It’s always been for other people,” Paula said. “It’s been able to make other people happy. That’s why I’ve got the best job!”
She recently branched into creating miniature helmets designed to fit a child’s doll. As we know, it’s so important for kids to have toys that look like them, and Paula is helping them feel not just normal but cool!
One look at these happy faces tells you everything you need to know about Paula’s work! What a wonderful way to serve others.
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