What do children with cancer do in a hospital while they are working hard to overcome the disease?
How do they stay positive and motivated? How do they express their frustration?
How do they remain kids in their hearts and souls?
Arts for Life, a Tony Stewart Foundation Grant Partner, brings amazing resources for these children to help cope with a health situation they didn’t create. Arts For Life helps kids in the hospital remember they are more than just being a patient. They are artists, musicians and poets; but, most of all, they're still kids.
No child wants to stay in the hospital, away from the comfort and familiarity of home. But after a diagnosis of leukemia, that’s where 10-year-old Cordelia found herself.
What could have been an even more arduous and long journey for Cordelia was, in part, tempered by the Arts For Life program at the hospital. Her world became a lot more colorful.
Thanks to her Arts For Life teachers, Cordelia’s long hospital days are now filled with wonder. Her art teachers feed her natural curiosity by exploring different mediums like painting, drawing, printmaking, and jewelry design. With a little coaxing, she was even able to turn her age-appropriate dislike of homework into an afternoon of historical exploration when she painted a portrait of George Washington.
For Cordelia, the recipe for a great day is marked by an array of color and texture, a conversation or two about her love of animals (just like Tony), and topped off with just the right amount of glitter!
Her art and her vibrant wigs speak volumes about who Cordelia is. She’s not just a patient battling a serious illness. She’s not a child who is isolated, withdrawn, or filled with anxiety. She is not defined by the number of hairs on her head, a lab result, or a diagnosis of cancer.
Cordelia is inquisitive, caring, and talented. She is an artist. When Cordelia engages in art, she’s a young girl who is brave, motivated, creative and always looking for a way to add color to her day. Art brings Cordelia confidence and joy, and she in turn shares that joy and positivity with everyone she encounters.
ARTS HELPING KIDS
It is not only Cordelia who has been transformed; it’s all of the kids Arts For Life comes into contact with – and also their parents. Many Parents breathe a sigh a relief, knowing their children are safe, content, and engaged. Cheryl, mom of Maggie, says, "It warms my heart that Maggie once painted a picture of herself smiling while being hooked up to the chemo infusion pump. She HATED that infusion pump and would not even look at it for many months during her treatments. She would look away from it. This piece of art that Maggie made shows the power of the Arts For Life program and how it helped Maggie turn her fear into a moment of happiness.”
When a child receive a cancer diagnosis, everyone’s world is flipped upside down and you look for those things that bring back a sense of normalcy. “The chemo clinic always felt like a stormy sea to me,” says Cheryl. “And it was Arts For Life that was a life preserver that kept my heart and hope afloat. Arts For Life was a safe harbor that Maggie and our family could turn to every time we felt helpless in the storm that is childhood cancer."
Doctors and nurses see that their patients are calmer, happier, and just feel better when Arts For Life is part of their day. Dr. Scothorn, a pediatric oncologist, says that his patients "Come for the chemo, but stay for the art!" Certified Child Life Specialist Amy Fisher says, "Arts For Life really sets the tone for our clinic. Providing fun, age-appropriate, and educational art activities, for kids to inspire their creativity in a safe space where things can often feel so scary. I find Arts For Life absolutely necessary. It brings so much joy, safety, and creativity to our patients.”
ARTS HELPING TEACHERS
The Art For Life teachers also find their lives are enriched by the time they spend with the children. Art teacher Cara shares, “It’s the highs and the lows, the sad and the joyful, that highlight the rich extremes of the human experiences, running like a thread through the lives of the patients, staff, and caregivers at the hospital. These experiences make my heart swell with love, belonging and purpose.”
THE ARTS FOR LIFE VISION
Since 2001, Arts For Life has been bringing the healing power of the arts into children's hospitals, clinic waiting areas, and hospital rooms. Arts For Life started with one pediatric cancer patient, one camera, and one photography lesson – and has since grown to bring art, music, and poetry to more than 11,000 kids and family members in hospitals on their medical journey. It operates every day a clinic is open and throughout the week for inpatient units.
Arts For Life's vision is that every pediatric patient who needs the arts to help them heal will have access to them. In partnership with Tony Stewart Foundation, Arts For Life is working to make that vision a reality.
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