sidebar-splatTo innovate & create, you have to try a lot of ideas to see which one works. Throw them at the wall & see what sticks. Some ideas will splat & blossom into something wonderful. Others will drop to the floor & our task is to scoop it up, reform it, & try again.

The Splat/Drop Wall is TomTod’s place to play catch with you & a world of opportunity, tossing around possibilities & ponderings to see what might splat & what might drop. So put on your play pants & add your dreams & hopes to the mix!

2016 Annual Report

In 2016, we grew. A lot. Our middle schoolers grew in collaboration, contribution, and character. We grew in programming, student numbers, staff, and overall intrepid creativity.

Take a gander at the impact we made in 2016!

View our report on Issuu.

TomTod Ideas was an early adopter of Giving Tuesday when it first began a few years ago. We loved using the power of social media to generate collaboration and generosity.

But this year, we did something different. We didn’t ask people for money – we gave back to them.

You can check out our swanky hashtag #TomTodGivesBack on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see our full day of giving back on Giving Tuesday.

How did it all go down?

Under the ruse of fake meetings and business shenanigans, we surprised some of our corporate sponsors in person, thanking them for their support and giving them some of the coolest stuff money can’t buy: donated local food, cards, and TomTod merch. We shared our story of surprises live on social media at every stop – and we loved every minute of it!

Here are the people who believe in TomTod Ideas (and probably won’t trust scheduling another business meeting with us ever again).

Deli Ohio

TomTod Ideas at Deli Ohio

Hall, Kistler, and Company

TomTod Ideas at Hall, Kistler, & Co.

Four Kids Coffee

TomTod Ideas at Four Kids Coffee

DeHoff Realtors

TomTod Ideas at DeHoff Realtors

Ramsburg Insurance and Financial Services

TomTod Ideas at Ramsburg Insurance

Hartville Health and Wellness

TomTod Ideas at Hartville Health and Wellness

Coffee and Code

TomTod Ideas at Coffee and Code

Lucy Burick

TomTod Ideas surprising Lucy Burick

Lucy is a TomTod alum and serves as Student Representative on our Board of Directors. We surprised her at school for her birthday, thanking her for her service on the board and being an ambassador for TomTod!

We’re kind of a small crew at TomTod, so we didn’t make it to every one of our corporate sponsors on Giving Tuesday. But even if we didn’t come a knockin’ on their doors, we are so grateful for the generosity of the following organizations:

ASAP! Promotional Product Idea Leaders
Bixler & Moore, LLC
Play It Again Sports
Rotary Club of Plain Township
Yoder-Bontrager Insurance and Financial Services
Aultman College
Pro Football Hall of Fame Marathon
Tim Morris, DDS
RiverTree Christian Church
Incept Gives

Embedded in TomTod Ideas’ DNA is embracing our community and collaborating with those around us. We are tremendously grateful that these folks believe in our mission and gave to help it continue. You can be a part of that, too. TomTod Ideas wouldn’t exist without the partnership, support, and donations of these generous people and others, so as a final sign-off on Giving Tuesday, thank you.

We’re so excited to bring Landfill Harmonic to the big screen at the Canton Palace Theatre…and it’s free for schools!

The film is playing November 17 at 10am, doors open at 9:00, so mark your calendars! Reservations are required for schools. Reserve free admission below or call 330-454-8172.

We’re partnering with the Canton Symphony Orchestra to bring this film to the big screen. Here’s what your school should know about this testament to the power of education, youth, and music.

The world sends them trash. They send back music:

Landfill Harmonic follows the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a Paraguayan musical group that plays instruments made entirely out of garbage. When their story goes viral, the orchestra is catapulted into the global spotlight. Under the guidance of idealistic music director Favio Chavez, the orchestra must navigate a strange new world of arenas and sold-out concerts. However, when a natural disaster strikes their community, Favio must find a way to keep the orchestra intact and provide a source of hope for their town. The film is a testimony to the transformative power of music, the resilience of the human spirit, and the importance of educating and empowering youth and communities.

Landfill Harmonic will leave your heart full and your ears wanting more. Ready to be inspired?

We’re so excited to bring Landfill Harmonic to the big screen at the Canton Palace Theatre.

The film is playing November 17 at 7pm, tickets are $5 and doors open at 6:30, so mark your calendars!

Get Tickets

We’re partnering with the Canton Symphony Orchestra to bring this film to the big screen. Here are 7 things you should know about this testament to the power of education, youth, and music.

First of all, the trailer. The world sends them trash. They send back music:

The film opens in Cateura, Paraguay, a town that sits on a gigantic landfill. Most of the residents in Cateura make their living by sorting through the trash and selling things they find.

Environmental engineer Favio Chávez came to Cateura to assist in a recycling program for the landfill, but when that failed, he found something much more musical: the creative passion of young people. He and his friend Nicolás began fashioning instruments out of salvaged garbage items.

Chávez wanted the children in the town to have a safe place to play–someplace other than a trash heap. He becomes the director of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, and begins teaching local kids how to play instruments. Violin made out of trash

Most of the instruments are made out of things found around the landfill, like tin cans, forks, and discarded X-ray film. But there’s another reason the instruments are made out of trash. “For many children, it was impossible to give them a violin to take home because they had nowhere to keep it and their parents were afraid they would be robbed, or the instrument would be sold to buy drugs,” said Chávez. The instruments–and the kids–are much safer since everything is recycled.

The filmmakers posted a short video about the Orchestra on social media–and their story explodes online. A Kickstarter to make the documentary was quickly funded, and soon the Orchestra, and the filmmakers, are touring the world in concert halls, stadiums, and arenas.

David Ellefson, bassist for the metal band Megadeth, becomes the Orchestra’s hero when he visits and gives them the chance to play with the band on tour.

The Recycled Orchestra playing on stage

“Landfill Harmonic” will leave your heart full and your ears wanting more.

Ready to be inspired? Get your tickets now!

Are you an educator? Want your students to watch Landfill Harmonic for free? Get the details here!

Recycled Violins

In part two of Bryce’s introductory blog series, we ask and he answers: why TomTod, why middle schoolers, and what’s the big deal about ideation?

Tell us, why TomTod Ideas? And why middle schoolers?
TomTod Ideas fascinates me. I work here and I’m still fascinated. It’s an organization that is working to create a culture of creativity and ideation that produces change. And more than just being a think tank or design hub, TomTod Ideas leverages some of the most powerful untapped potential the world has: middle schoolers. Young people. They’re kids, they’re teens, they’re changing the world and the world hardly gives them credit. We work to give them credit where it’s due.

All of our students’ stories are proof that middle schoolers can change the world, just take a gander and you’ll see. But it’s not just TomTod Ideas students that are doing this. We have middle school and teenage heroes around the globe.

A group of middle schoolers are racing a human-powered kinetic sculpture—and they’ve built it themselves. Malala Yousafzai challenges the world to make education a first-rate priority for women and girls. She was attacked by Taliban when she was 15 years old because of it. At age 12, Zach Hunter learned that human slaves exist in the world—right now, today—and was determined to help end modern day slavery.

So middle schoolers might be hyper, rambunctious, and maybe a little dramatic sometimes (aren’t we all?), but they have the potential, the drive, and above all, the imagination to dream up wonderful crazy things that make the world a better place in which to live.

So what’s the big deal about ideation?
I’m glad you didn’t use the word why in this question.

Why’s that?
Well, the two go hand in hand—ideation and not asking why. One of the things I’ve seen happen in almost any creative setting is that asking “why?” too much can be detrimental—to creativity, to ideation, and ultimately, to people.

The best work to come out of a creative setting usually begins with an idea that is constructed audaciously, without hindrance and without immediately being told “no, you can’t do that” or “no, that would never work.” The reason traditional brainstorming is so ineffective is because people are afraid to express creative, crazy, wild ideas to the large group since they will be immediately shot down—or they’re afraid they will be.

That’s why when we begin an ideation session at TomTod Ideas, we always start with an “anything goes” process. Have an idea? Write it on a sticky note and toss it up on the wall. Everybody gets sticky notes, everybody has ideas, nobody gets shot down. We don’t ask why? We don’t even ask why not?

Instead, we ask what if? Asking what if? opens the door to imagination, ideation, and creative problem solving more effectively than questions that can hinder or even halt the process—questions like why?

This ideation process of course needs mediation in some way. You can’t throw hundreds of ideas up on the wall and expect to try, implement, or test every single one. That’s why we have stages in our ideation sessions. In the initial stages we expect everyone to stretch their imaginations to the craziest and wildest possibility, and in later stages we challenge everyone to think on a much smaller scale, asking, “What if you only had $100 to implement this idea? What if you had zero dollars?” “What if you only had the resources available in your neighborhood? What if the only stuff you had available was in your house?”

It’s a great process that challenges everyone to think on both sides of the spectrum: limitless and limited. Great ideas usually come somewhere in between. And when you challenge students to think and ideate on both sides of that spectrum, they learn to think and ideate holistically, and they begin to answer questions and solve problems in new and more creative ways than they ever had before.

What If You Could is one way we ask “what if?” Middle schoolers can apply right now with a big idea to change the world at What If You Could.

Lightbulb radiating

IMG_3405cMeet TomTod Ideas’ newest addition to the team, Lead Storyteller Bryce Schmidt.
In part one of this blog post, we get to know Bryce as he discusses his interests, pop culture, and what “Lead Storyteller” means.
So, with a job title of Lead Storyteller, what do you do?

Tell stories of course! But it’s more than that. Driving forces for TomTod Ideas include creativity, inspiration, and celebration. We have so many stories to share of our amazing middle schoolers, the ideas they create, and the feats they accomplish. My job is share those stories, on social media, on our website, to the press, in print, and elsewhere. I direct communications and media, where I write and do graphic design, and I collaborate with partners for other events and marketing and administrative tasks.

What’s a perfect day in the life of Bryce?

A perfect day would start with getting the coffee or tea just right. I’ve been delving into trying more teas lately, and I’m definitely not an expert. I’m trying to hone my skills in getting honey and steeping times right.

A perfect day would include feeling inspired to write and then actually writing. I’ve always loved telling stories (job title is accurate), and when I get in the zone I can crank out a lot of good stuff. It takes some work to get to that point though, but when I get immersed in flow, it feels great to be productive. I like writing nonfiction, where I can tell stories from my own life and reflect and remember as I go. It’s a great avenue for humor, where I focus a lot of my energy in writing (I’ll let you know when I win the Pulitzer).

If we’re talking about the Perfectest of All Perfect Days, I think I would backtrack to my summer 2015 trip to Paris and Taizé, France. The country is beautiful, the sites are breathtaking, the monastery is peaceful, and the food is beyond words. I had the wonderful opportunity to travel there with Malone University on a service learning trip, and I would go back in a heartbeat. My perfect day would close out by relaxing with friends, reading, and/or watching an intriguing movie. Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes, and has been a driving force in my hobbies, studies, and passions. I love film and consider myself a quasi-movie buff, and I love to find interesting films that delve into interesting characters’ lives.

Some of Bryce’s Favorite Movies:
  • Stranger Than Fiction
  • Take Shelter
  • Inception
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Kings of Summer (I’d call it my generation’s Stand By Me, plus, it was filmed in Ohio!)
Some of Bryce’s Favorite Books:
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • All the Way Home by David Giffels (people give Northeast Ohio a bad rap, but this is my mantra for why I love it here)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Zone One by Colson Whitehead
  • The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
In Part Two, learn more about Bryce’s fit at TomTod Ideas, middle school, and why asking “why?” can be detrimental.

[In Part 2 of the series, “Who’s Tom? Where’s Tod?” we answer more of the questions we are asked on a regular basis! Read on to learn more about TomTod and our students. If you missed it, be sure to catch up on Part 1!]

Where do your students come from?

Anywhere! We work with public schools and youth groups, students from all over Stark County, and travel to consult with groups anywhere in the world. We have currently worked with students from 6 different school districts in Stark County as well as private schools and homeschooled students. We have even traveled as far as North Carolina to help a group of students concoct ideas on a Dream Weekend.

How are you funded?

Through generous people like yourself! We receive funding from private donors, businesses and churches. We are also currently pursuing a variety of grants.

Do schools pay for your in-school programs?

Schools do not pay for TomTod programs. TomTod is unique because we offer programs that support teachers’ existing curriculum at no cost to the schools. We enjoy providing this supplemental resource to schools and plan to expand our reach to other districts in the area.

Where is TomTod located?

TomTod Ideas keeps regular office hours at The Stark County District Library in downtown Canton (715 Market Ave. N, Canton, OH 44702). Give us a call if you plan on stopping by, as we’re often out and about, meeting with students, partners, and sharing dreams with the world.

How can I help?

TomTod wouldn’t exist with out our awesome support team! If you are a middle school student, get involved by registering for a Dreamoratory. If you are an adult looking to volunteer, check out our volunteer page. We are always looking for energetic and invested adults to help with our programs. Contact with any further questions. We hope to partner with you soon!

GGG 2014

Joe Rozsa receives prestigious award for Idea X logo created for TomTod Ideas

Canton, OH – June 1, 2015Joe Rozsa, Owner/Creative Director of Trailer Trash Design, received the Platinum Hermes Award for the Idea X logo he created for TomTod Ideas.

Rozsa designed the Idea X logo in the fall of 2014. Idea X is a 6-18 month long experiential mentorship adventure for middle school students. The doodle in the logo captured the creative and humble beginning of an idea.

Hermes Creative Awards identifies exceptional work in the creative industry. Over 6,000 entries were received from around the United States, Canada and several other countries.

The awards were organized and judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP). AMCP supports creative professionals who dedicate their expertise to charitable organizations.Winners were chosen from 195 categories and about 15% of the entries won the most coveted honor, the Platinum Award.

“We are extremely proud of Joe for receiving this prestigious award. His ingenuity and creative mastery crafted a dynamic logo for Idea X and reignited an innovative spark in the ideation-based program,” said Abby Shaub, Chief Ideation Officer of TomTod Ideas.

Rozsa has received two gold Hermes Creative Awards in addition to the platinum for Idea X. He plans to enter the Idea X logo in the Sister Competition, The Marcom Awards, next year.

Rozsa started Trailer Trash Design over eight years ago in Green, Ohio. According to it’s website, “Trailer Trash Design is a small, creative, and innovative design studio that’s geared for quick response and effective graphic communications of all types.”

TomTod Ideas is a non-profit organization that empowers middle school students to launch absurd ideas that enhance the common good. They release the potential of tomorrow, today. Visit for more information.


Idea X sliderPlatinum Statuette

TomTod is a unique and quirky organization. We’re the first to admit it! Working with middle schoolers, we strive to make our DNA as fun, whimsical and energy-surged as the students we serve! Today, we answer your most puzzling TomTod questions, in Part 1 of a 2 part series.

Okay, Okay. Who’s Tom? Where’s Tod?

Great question! Curiosity peaks when an organization’s name could be classified as two first names. But, TomTod really stands for Tomorrow’s Ideas, Today! Society typically views middle school as an awkward transition time from childhood to adulthood. Middle schoolers are often projected to be leaders once they mature and age. We believe that middle schoolers are equipped to be leaders today and TomTod exists to release their potential.

What exactly does TomTod do?

We empower middle school students to launch absurd ideas that enhance the common good. We accomplish this mission through 4 different programs:

Idea X: 6-12 month long experiential mentorship adventure. We walk with middle school students through an ideation process, starting with an application & interview experience & continuing to team building, idea development & launch. Read more about our Idea X projects.

Canton Dreamoratory: A week-long summer camp for middle schoolers centered on the assets and challenges of a specific city center. Students develop ideas to make Canton a better place & then present their ideas to community leaders.

Grasp. Go. Grow.: An in-school program that walks students through the ideation process. In the 2014-2015 school year the program is at The Early College Academy & The College & Career Readiness Academy at Lehman. 

Artsplorations: Our newest program, students explore innovation through the arts. We hold Saturday morning workshops, taught by local experts. *Partial funding provided by ArtsinStark.

When did TomTod begin?

TomTod started in the hearts and minds of middle school students that Joel Daniel Harris hung out with in a decade of youth ministry. The very first TomTod project was the Shack-A-Thon, in the fall of 2011. In August of 2012, JDH left his job to pursue launching TomTod full-time. The three new projects were launched in the fall of 2012 and TomTod received our 501c3 certification in February of 2013. New things are starting up all the time in the land of TomTod, so in some ways we’re always beginning again.

Check back next Tuesday for Part 2, when we answer more puzzling questions!


[Barbara Ross’ daughter, Aurora, attended the Dreamoratory last summer. We asked Barbara a few questions about Aurora’s experience and why the week is important for middle schoolers].

TomTod: Why did you want Aurora to participate in the Dreamoratory?

Barbara: I felt that it was important to add a counterpoint to her perspective, which at the “middle school” stage of development can be very “Me”-centric, with information and experiences embracing the larger world in which that “me” operates.

TT: What were Aurora’s biggest learnings from the week?

Barbara: That there is much more in time and space than what can be gained from split second glances.

TT: How was Aurora challenged by the Dreamoratory?

Barbara: I think she benefited from the experience of being enveloped into a work group of people, topics and goals that are unfamiliar but immediate.

TT: What would you tell a parent who has a student interested in the Dreamoratory?

Barbara: I would say that they should not expect “camp” in the sense of a traditional cabin by the lake scenario. Their youth will gain a more urban vibe and the experience will be more of a “scamper” going through a new land that that of a “camper” on a predictive trail.

TT: Why is the Dreamoratory worthwhile for middle schoolers?

Barbara: I think it models team building and problem solving systems while fostering a sense of adventure and an expectation of the wonder of things unexpected.

This year’s Canton Dreamoratory is July 12-18, open to students leaving grades 5-8. Register today at


Aurora (right) shares her idea with community leaders at the Community Ideation Panel.


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