From Mascot to Movement
At the 11th annual Autism & All Special Needs Expo in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2017, Brett Rubin of Koala Roofing arrived with two seven-foot koalas in tow. When Rubin first began his roofing company in Ohio, he could not have expected this is where he would end up. Even with his passion for giving back, no one would have guessed that these two larger-than-life mascots would be the key to the widespread positive impact he hoped to create. The Koala Joe and The Koala Ken, who have become known as The Koalas, were originally meant to serve as memorable representatives of Koala Roofing. Soon after their introduction, however, it became evident that Joe and Ken had the power to make a much bigger difference, and Rubin was more than happy to amplify their impact.
Their appearance at the Expo marked the start of what would become a full-fledged campaign dedicated to spreading happiness and encouraging healing. After seeing the difference The Koalas could make in just a few hours at one event, Rubin realized he had an opportunity to bring joy to children and families facing difficult circumstances and overwhelming struggles. What people need most, Rubin concluded, was kindness and compassion, and so the mascots became conduits for spreading positivity to as many people as possible. In an effort to decrease stress and bring laughter to those who need it most, The Koalas remind people of the healing power of playfulness.
Since their first venture into community involvement, they have appeared at several events benefiting charities, including Autism Speaks, JDRF Diabetes Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Lupus Foundation of America, Alzheimer’s Association, Families with ASD, MVKids, and the Children’s Tumor Foundation. They have also appeared at several Ronald McDonald House locations, The Cincinnati Zoo and even the world-renowned Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
After Hurricane Irma, Rubin acquired Fiddler’s Roofing in Orlando, and the Koalas’ project, The Koala Times, has relocated as well, looking for opportunities to begin spreading joy in their new home.
Ultimately, Rubin hopes The Koala Times’ mission statement of promoting smiling and laughing with kindness and compassion reaches a much wider audience, with appearances from The Koala Joe and The Koala Ken, cartoons and teaching tools. Soon, The Koalas plush likenesses, which are being exclusively produced by Build-A-Bear Workshop, will be available. More than a business, The Koala Times has become a vehicle for messages of hope and generosity, one that will only grow as the mascots travel the country to visit hospitals, organizations and events dedicated to those in need of a hug or a smile. ◆