Drawn To Help was created by artist Steve Barr to supplement existing art programs at hospitals, camps and treatment facilities around the country. This outstanding organization helps arrange “celebrity” appearances by successful cartoonists and talented artists who want to improve children’s lives. When Steve learned about our call for artists to share their stories, he reached out to tell us all about Drawn To Help. We’re honored to share his article here. After you read it, I encourage you to visit the website to learn more about it and how you can volunteer, contribute, or donate. If you’re an artist or cartoonist see how you can help in your local area. ~ Renée Phillips
By Steve Barr, Founder, Drawn To Help
Did you ever read articles or studies about the deep impact art can have on healing and wonder if the results they reported were really true?
I have. And I found some of the claims to be rather unbelievable. That is, until I got to see those magical moments happen right in front of my eyes. Over and over again. And it is simply amazing.
Several years ago, a dear friend’s son was diagnosed with Leukemia. She knew that I was a cartoonist who visited schools and libraries, and she mentioned to me that she had seen the deep impact art programs could have on pediatric patients, then suggested that I might want to visit a children’s hospital from time to time.
Little did I know that she was sending me off on the adventure of a lifetime. What has happened since then has been absolutely stunning. Those first few visits turned into something much larger than I had ever imagined. Mostly through word of mouth, my cartooning programs for children in hospitals literally exploded. It has now become an organization known as “Drawn To Help”, and we take really talented professional cartoonists to visit young patients at multiple treatment facilities in seven states.
We’re planning to continue to expand as much as we possibly can in the coming years. But what I’d really like to share with you is what I’ve seen, and what many of our volunteers have witnessed as well.
There is something about the word “cartoons” that swings children’s hearts and doors open. For example, on a recent visit to a hospital, I was asked to do bedside visits. We went to the room of a young girl who was suffering from such deep depression that she had not spoken to her parents or staff members in days. Everyone in the room was stunned when she was asked if she’d like to learn how to draw cartoons and she perked up and said yes!
A talented caricaturist accompanied me, and he drew for the parents while I sketched with that little girl. By the time we left her room, she had moved herself from her bed into her wheelchair and was excitedly talking to her parents about what she wanted to do when she went home.
Creating art had made her begin looking towards the future again!
We’ve seen that with young cancer patients, kids who are waiting for transplants and so many others. Another impressive impact we’ve watched happen over and over again is that children who have lost their appetites due to their treatments suddenly begin nibbling on food while they’re drawing, because they forgot they weren’t hungry.
In one case, I was asked to visit an 11 year-old who was in hospice care. She had actually written a “bucket list” of things she wanted to do before she passed, and one of the things on her list was to learn how to draw cartoons. She had not eaten for two days.
When we got done drawing together, she surprised everyone in the room by sitting up and asking, “Can I order a bagel with cream cheese and a really LARGE orange juice?”
Drawn To Help gives each child we visit a free packet of art supplies that they get to keep, so they can continue experiencing the healing aspects of creativity long after our volunteers have gone home. And, we give them free art instruction books. When I gave that little one her gift pack and books, she asked if she could have five more.
I smiled and asked her why she wanted five, and she said “My brothers and sisters are coming to visit to say goodbye, and I want to have nice presents for them.”
She got them. And a big smile.
Those gift packs are an essential part of what Drawn To Help does. They enable “our kids” to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of creating their own art for hours and hours after the visits are done. I’ve personally witnessed children who were in the middle of painful treatments suddenly begin to giggle when they got to draw funny pictures during the process. I’ve seen their worries and pain go away.
To give you an idea of the huge positive impact art can have on children, here’s a quote from an e-mail I received recently: “Hey Steve! This is Madysen, Zion’s older sister. I just wanted to email you to let you know that I am so, so, appreciative for you being in my little brother’s life. You are a light in his world and helped bring him out of his shell, just a few years back he wouldn’t even communicate with us as much as he does now, he used to be so quiet about his art and not let anyone see it, now he takes pride in it! And he used to be so embarrassed about his (high-functioning) autism, but now he lets the world know that he not only has it, but owns it, and he shows other kids with ASD that they can do anything they set their hearts and minds to. I just want to say, Thank You. Thank you so much, I am forever grateful for you being in his life.” ~ Madysen McCarty
If you’d like to learn more about what Drawn To Help does, these links will help you find more information about us.
Visit the Drawn to Help website: drawntohelp.com
Join Drawn to Help on Social Media
Facebook Page: facebook.com/DrawnToHelp/
Drawn To Help is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Drawn To Help must be made payable to “Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Fiscal Sponsorship: www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=14153