... as a child dances into hearts at the Jane Pitt Pediatric Cancer Center
Discovery Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, serving 6 hospitals in California for 20 years. Mercy Children’s Hospital, in Springfield, MO, is the first hospital in the Midwest to be given the opportunity to experience Discovery Arts. The program has been at Mercy for nearly three years and just recently, I became the coordinator. “Our mission is to bring art, music, dance and drama to children with cancer, serious blood disorders and life threatening illness while they are receiving treatment.” For many, their greatest wish is normalcy.
Today was a day to remember. I would reach beyond the comfort I had found bringing Discovery Arts to the children hospitalized on the Pediatrics floor, by introducing myself and the program to the Jane Pitt Pediatric Cancer Center, a St. Jude Affiliate Clinic, at Mercy Children’s Hospital - Springfield. The walk down the hall was long in anticipation of all the new children. Emotions were evoked as images came to mind. I took a deep breath and opened the door to the new facility, pleasantly allured by colorful paintings and photographs, displayed with museum style and lighting.
I met a child, who instantly captured my heart. Today was her fifth birthday. She had a purple and white cake to celebrate. She wanted to see what gifts I brought for her and was ready to participate. I put on a CD of song birds to lead into the nature theme. She curiously looked around the room for birds. My artistic task was face painting. At first, it seemed to be too tickly, but she pointed to her foot. I painted a butterfly. She pointed to her other foot. I painted a heart. As I brought out costumes, she pointed to and put on the green fairy skirt and the matching headband with pink flowers. I handed her a silver, sparkly wand.
First she touched mommy with the wand. It was heartwarming. She quickly learned that the wand was magical and we were all under her spell, as she touched Child Life Specialists, Suzanne Cook, followed by Kristi Donovan and made them twirl. Of course I had a turn, as did the medical staff, whose watchful eyes peeked in because there was a party going on! She had to be disconnected from her IV, as she got up from her pillows and climbed down to twirl on the floor. She had just seen the movie Happy Feet, which explained her barefoot dance to the music she seemed to hear in her mind, though the room was silent.
I stood in the middle of a cancer center, with chills of an awakening perspective. I was in the presence of a precious, whimsical child, dressed up like a fairy princess with a smile that lit up the room, dancing freely across the floor in complete and total bliss. For a moment, she was able to forget about the lengthy treatments she was receiving. It was her birthday! She had a cake, a costume and was surrounded by love. For a moment, that was all that mattered. Yes, today was a day to remember.
Be a part of the promise that hospitalized children will be provided with all the creative and normalization opportunities as their “well” peers. Give generously to increase the quality of life for these children. How you can help!
~ Janel Alicia
Bringing the healing power of the arts to children who are in the hospital undergoing treatment for cancer or life-threatening illness.