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Jun 19, 2020

Leaving the Hospital with a Hug

Now on staff, she had volunteered with CHAP years ago. Around the holidays, she got to work with a 4-year old child and her parents at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, bringing them fun, engaging art projects to enjoy each week to brighten their days. While new to this CHAP Teaching Artist, the child was a familiar face on that floor of Doernbecher. She had been mostly in - and occasionally out - of the hospital throughout 2019. Strong relationships had developed by this point in the family's hospital journey.

Late one Friday afternoon, the CHAP Teaching Artist was honored to witness this 4-year old child ringing the bell at that floor's Nurses’ Station. This tradition has become a sweet ritual for children to mark their last chemotherapy session. The nurses all gather around. Family and friends attend the celebration. It’s very moving and poignant. It fills the unit with hope. There is a song that the nurses all know. Copies of the lyrics are circulated among the crowd so everyone can join in. Depending on the age of the chemo graduate, sometimes there is confetti thrown, and sometimes there are bubbles blown. Picture men, women, and children of all ages - some bald, some with I.V. poles.  Most are standing - though a few are seated in wheelchairs or perched on their crutches.

The CHAP Teaching Artist observes this moment from the back row, not knowing this family especially well. The sweet song finishes and the young girl is lifted up to ring the bell that is mounted high on the wall. This starts a chain of hugs - from the family to the dedicated and wonderful staff, from the graduating family to those fellow patients who are still in the midst of their treatment. 

In all of this, guess who the little girl sees down the hallway? The Teaching Artist from CHAP. The child bursts out with glee, “The Paint Lady!” as she makes a beeline through the crowd to her. She is sure that it was the colorful CHAP T-shirt that all the Teaching Artists wear that triggered this incredible and touching reaction. She received the embrace from the child on behalf of CHAP, knowing that she was representing this little gift that had been bestowed on this child through CHAP’s efforts. It was the healing power of art that CHAP had made available to this remarkable family for over 13 months. 

The Teaching Artist’s face was new, but CHAP was an old friend.  

This wonderful experience is an illustration of the impact that CHAP and the healing power of art have on hospitalized children and their families. Since mid-March 2020, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for CHAP Teaching Artists and dedicated volunteers to visit area hospitals. 

So, CHAP did what CHAP does best and got creative! When Teaching Artists couldn't visit the hospitalized children in person, CHAP offered sanitizable bags full of colorful, engaging art supplies to the hospitals for the children to use in their rooms. When in-person Art Clubs for children with medical issues couldn't take place in our art studio, CHAP started offering Art Clubs via Zoom. CHAP also now sends encouraging ecards to children still in the hospitals; still mails free art supplies to families who live far from CHAP through the CHAP In a Box program; and posts creative art-making ideas on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for all to enjoy using items found around the house. 

Everyone at CHAP loves the new ways of providing the healing power of art during this pandemic...but we definitely look forward to being able to put on our colorful CHAP T-shirts and roll the art carts full of art supplies through the hospital halls to visit the children and families once again. And maybe even get a surprise hug from a child whose time in the hospital was made a little brighter through art.


Feb 24, 2020

'Anything with Art is Possible at CHAP'

Mia and her Family
Mia and her Family

Nine-year-old Mia loves Children's Healing Art Project (CHAP). "Anything is possible at CHAP. It's just one of the best places on earth," she announces.

Mia was introduced to CHAP through Shriners Hospital for Children where she goes for recreational therapy. Mia was instantly excited and inspired by the openness and endless creative outlets that CHAP provides each person. Whether she attends monthly Art Workshops at CHAP in her wheelchair or standing on her own, Mia always knows that she is accepted and included for exactly who she is. At CHAP, children are known for their creativity and ingenuity -- not by their disease, diagnosis, or disability. To kids like Mia, that means everything.

Mia's mom, Bethany, and her grandmother, Mary, agree 100%. As Bethany says, "I love how CHAP includes everybody, and meets them where they're at." In CHAP's art studio, Mia and her whole family can put aside the challenges of living with a chronic illness to focus on art, creativity, friends, family connections, and finding joy during otherwise difficult times. 

In 2019, CHAP facilitated 10,401 healing art experiences for children and families at local hospitals, in our Portland art studio, at outreach events, and through CHAP In a Box home deliveries of inspirational art supplies. Each one of those 10,000+ free healing art experiences is a personalized, one-on-one interaction between CHAP staff or dedicated volunteer and a child or family member facing medical challenges. Each and every connection is as unique as the glittery, colorful, joyful art that is created together.

Mia at Art Workshops
Mia at Art Workshops
Mia and her Doll Grace
Mia and her Doll Grace


Dec 2, 2019

The Colorful Spirit House

A Colorful Spirit House
A Colorful Spirit House

As CHAP expands weekly art-making service to 17 different locations Portland, Salem, and Eugene this year, we never take for granted how every single healing art experience makes a difference. Here is the story of one woman and her colorful Spirit House:

Every Wednesday, CHAP teaching artists and volunteers are at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute bringing healing art opportunities to children and families. On this particular Wednesday, a woman strolls into the room around 4:30pm – nearly the end of CHAP’s time there. Alone at the table, the CHAP teaching artist is sorting colorful beads that children had been using earlier. She invites the woman to participate. The woman declines, saying that she is simply looking for a quiet place to work on her scrapbooking while her husband sleeps. She places her supplies on the small round table, yet is drawn to the long folding table that CHAP had set up for artists and would-be artists. The table is full of a selection of acrylic paint, canvases, Sharpie markers, beads, mandalas, colored pencils and watercolors to spark the imagination.

The visiting woman is instantly drawn to a Spirit House that had been started and then left on the table by someone. Constructed with sticks and wrapped in white cheesecloth, it is ready to be decorated. The woman is curious about it and plops down in one of the empty chairs. She says, “Okay, why not?” She seems charmed by the idea that it can function as a nightlight; she and her husband have not been sleeping very well.

Quickly, the teaching artist pulls out a collection of colorful tissue paper squares. She waters down some Elmer’s glue so the woman can apply the tissue pieces to the walls of the Spirit House. She’s hard at work in minutes. Scrapbooking abandoned, she starts chatting with the CHAP teaching artist.

The woman says she is sad that her husband is so sick. He has been fighting cancer for 5 years now. She confesses that she has spent much of that time being angry. The cancer has affected every facet of their life; her husband now requires full-time care (he cannot so much as lift a frying pan on his own) and she is the one to do it. She does it with love. They have 2 children, one in college and one in high school. The oldest just recently dropped out of college in order to come home and help take care of her younger brother still living at home. The parents did not ask for this, but they are struck by her kindness and selflessness. The daughter said, “This is what I can do for you right now. Mom, you take care of Dad. I will take care of brother to ease your burden.” It’s an incredible pulling together.

The teaching artist asks her how she met her husband. They met when she was 18 years old. She had just finished high school. As a graduation gift, her parents gave her a one-way ticket to Greece. Her grandfather was Greek and she herself has a classically Greek name. She departed on this huge trip knowing how to say two things in Greek, “Hello” and “I love you.” After being in Greece for 2 months, she crossed paths with her now husband. He caught her eye. A few weeks later, they had their first date. A romance followed.

After 3 exciting months in Greece, she flew back to the Pacific Northwest. After a 4-month courtship, they were married. 

Fast forward thirty years and they are still married. She said it’s been so hard to see him so sick. She said, “I really like him. I love him.” The chemo has been brutal and although it is viewed as the medicine to help him regain his health, it doesn’t always feel this way. It goes without saying that cancer has changed the trajectory of their life. She does not feel comfortable leaving his side nor does her husband want her to. She has since given up the idea that she will sleep at home when her husband is in the hospital.

All this comes pouring out of her heart. The whole time she is talking, her colorful Spirit House is taking shape. She asks for advice on how she should complete the top. When the teaching artists mention that we have feathers, her eyes light up. She said, “Oh, I love feathers!” Her Spirit House is finished with a sprout of colorful feathers coming out of the rooftop. She’s grateful for this opportunity to create something. She’s pleasantly surprised that this act of making a Spirit House has been so helpful to her. By now, it’s approaching 5:30pm but there’s no rushing this moment.

She leaves the room with her untouched scrapbooking and a sweet Spirit House with feathers at the top. The teaching artist thanks her for coming down to the Family Room to be a part of CHAP. She tells the woman that she hopes the Spirit House helps her and her husband get a good night of last.

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