A Washington State grandmother named Paula Lazardo has always loved art and being creative, but she never planned to start a business painting baby helmets for a living. However, life has a funny way of taking us where we’re most needed and that’s exactly what happened to Paula. She considered herself a decent artist, so when a friend asked her to transform a baby’s medical helmet into something that would be a little less “medical” and a little more fun, Paula cheerfully agreed to give it a go. Ten percent of babies are born with plagiocephaly, a condition that flattens part of their soft baby skull.
To correct this and help their heads to form correctly, these babies typically wear special helmets. When the first baby’s doctor saw the cute designs on his helmet, he immediately knew tons of other babies whose parents would love to have their baby’s helmet painted, too. When he started spreading the word among the parents of his patients, a new business was born for Paula, who said, “He saw value in having the helmet painted for his clients.” She added that it was just a “snowball thing” and now, it’s about 99% of what she does. Paula describes painting helmets for babies as the “best job ever.”
The first baby’s helmet was done in 1996 and since then, Paula has painted more than 3,000 helmets for babies. It’s still hard for her to believe that something so simple has changed and touched so many lives, including her own. She says she didn’t wake up one day and decide to go into the helmet business, but it was a kind of happy accident that she is so grateful to be able to do. One of the things that makes what Paula does so impactful is that these children have to wear their helmets day and night for several months.
To get a helmet painted, Paula has the parents ship their baby’s helmet to her overnight. She in turn creates artwork and ships them back to the parents within 24 hours.
The paint she uses is water-based non-toxic paint and she charges between $200-$350 per helmet. She also creates miniature helmets that are designed to fit on a doll’s head, so children have dolls who look like them. Watch the video below about Paula’s work and mission.