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Bring healing art to children in medical crisis

by Children's Healing Art Project (CHAP)
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Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis
Bring healing art to children in medical crisis

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.

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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

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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 sleep...at last.

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Superhero Creature
Superhero Creature

It was a Wednesday morning and the CHAP teaching artists had filled the table in the hospital waiting room with art supplies -- modeling clay, glitter glue, feathers, and more. Two boys who appeared to be related sat at one end of the table, creating colorful clay creatures with creative superhero names. A woman sat in a waiting room chair behind them, holding her coffee with both hands as she watched them add googly-eyes to their creatures and gently tease each other. One of CHAP's teaching artists approached the woman, asking if she'd also like to make art while she waited. Looking a little tired, the woman declined and said that she was the grandmother of the two boys as well as three other children in the waiting room, and that she'd rather just watch them from her chair. It had been a long morning for her already and there were still several appointments to go. The CHAP teaching artist smiled and returned to the children at the table to make sure they all had what they needed for their art making.

A moment later, one of the two boys turned to that same teaching artist and began to tell her all about his clay creation. The two interacted with ease for a few moments, until the boy went back to more art-making. Astonished and visibly moved, the grandmother eagerly switched to a seat near the CHAP teaching artist and said "I can't believe it." She explained that the boy who had interacted a moment ago rarely spoke to anyone but his brother and his grandmother. Not his doctor, his teachers, nor friends of the family. With tears in her eyes, she said that they had "tried everything" from equine therapy to speech therapy to encourage him to interact or even feel comfortable with others. "I think we may have finally found it in art," she said. 

With every healing art experience, CHAP teaching artists provide the space, encouragement, and materials for children and families to do whatever they would like at that moment. Sometimes art-making is an outlet for nervous energy. Sometimes it can be a distraction or a form of expression. And sometimes it touches a child (or a grandmother) in an unexpected way, like it did with one particular boy that Wednesday morning.

CHAP is honored to be able to bring healing art experiences to children and families facing medical challenges who are visiting or staying in area hospitals. Each week, teams of teaching artists and dedicated volunteers roll their art carts full of colorful art supplies into 16 different waiting rooms and hospital lobbies for children to enjoy.

Most recently, CHAP began new in-hospital service outside the Portland-metro area for the first time in both Salem and Eugene, Oregon. In addition, CHAP hosted a series of Summer Art Workshops for 75 children who came to the studio to explore painting, sculpture, print-making, and more. And preparations are underway for CHAP's biggest fundraiser of the year, CHAPlandia

Thank you for supporting CHAP's incredible mission of bringing the healing power of art to children and families facing medical challenges. You are making a difference!

Girl with a Heart
Girl with a Heart
Summer Art Workshop Fun
Summer Art Workshop Fun
Summer Art Workshop Creations
Summer Art Workshop Creations
Sculpture Art
Sculpture Art

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Starting the stork painting
Starting the stork painting

"I’d like a BIG canvas, please."

Walking into the room wearing a hospital gown with her IV pole trailing behind her, she tells the CHAP volunteers that she wants to paint today...and she'll need a BIG canvas. She knows exactly what she wants to do.

Between her medical procedures this afternoon at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, she plans to paint the arrival of her new baby brother as a surprise for her mother! His birth was so exciting for the family. She was at his delivery last month, so she knows that storks really don’t bring babies - but she prefers to paint that particular whimsical image for her Mom. 

With her large canvas ready on an easel, she requests only blue and white paint. Moments later the CHAP staff and volunteers turn to see her painting bold and broad strokes with a four inch paintbrush, covering the entire canvas. Her plan was perfectly clear from the start, as she proceeded to paint the billowing clouds in the sky. With a little outlining and technique help from CHAP staff, she began painting an elegant stork carrying its small bundle through the bright sky.

Everyone who came into the playroom that afternoon was mesmerized, watching her meticulously applying the paint with smaller and smaller brushes to form feathers, wings, legs, and a baby in a blanket.

While she was immersed in her painting, a nurse came to remove her for a few minutes to put another bag on her IV pole. Later, another nurse took her away for a few more minutes to take her vitals. It was almost time for her medical procedure, but she continued with her painting amid all the disruptions. Then the nurse arrived with a bottle of “contrast fluid” that needed to be consumed in a specific way. “Just try” the nurse said, to drink down to this line in the next thirty minutes. “Just do your best,” she requests. With a little encouragement, she drinks down to the line on the bottle, as she paints. The nurse returns later, with instructions to drink to the next line in 15 minutes.

Again she paints as she drinks the liquid, finishing with her brother’s name below the stork, written in large cloud letters.

Painting completed, CHAP staff and volunteers all follow her to her hospital room to surprise her Mom with the painting. What an honor to witness her amazing creative process and see her so happy and proud of the gift she so lovingly created for her mother and new brother.

Just as her painting is completed and the surprise delivered, her “ride“ arrives and she is taken off for her procedure.

Healing art experience like this happen every day through CHAP's work at area hospitals and creative art studio. CHAP hospital teaching artists and dedicated volunteers provide nearly 50 hours of healing art experiences for children and families throughout the Portland-metro area every week. Hospitals include Doernbecher Children's Hospital, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, Shriners Hospital for Children, and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. And expansion for the first time in CHAP's history to Salem and Eugene (Oregon) are planned for next month!

Because of donors like you, CHAP is able to continue providing beautiful healing art experiences like the creation of the stork painting for mom - making an enormous difference in the lives of childrten and families facing otherwise difficult times. Your support is felt and appreciated every day.

Adding baby brother to painting
Adding baby brother to painting
The healing power of art
The healing power of art

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Children's Healing Art Project (CHAP)

Location: Portland, OR - USA
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Children's Healing Art Project
Portland, OR United States
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