Archives for January 2013

Friends of Tracy’s Kids

rowdy readers

Often times we have families and friends of families ask to give donations specifically to Tracy’s Kids. Not only do people love the program and see the benefits every day, but they love that the money will go to something very visible and tangible – art supplies! Obviously, the donations help pay our salaries and make our jobs possible, as well, but seeing the product of their contributions – the kid’s wonderful art – is very gratifying for the donors.

Last month, I was surprised instead by one of our staff members – an awesome nurse named Anita – and her book club with a check for $100. The individuals in the club – the San Antonio Rowdy Readers – donate $1 each meeting, then give whatever they collect at the end of the year to an organization or cause that they want to help. This year, that recipient was me and Tracy’s Kids! It was such a treat and a testament not only to the impact of art therapy on patients AND staff, but also to how dedicated our nurses are to improving our kids’ lives.

Thanks Anita and the San Antonio Rowdy Readers! And thank you to everyone who gives to our program.  It makes a difference you can see.

And The Movies Are…

Tracy’s Kids has lined up a fantastic slate of movies for the Wednesday, February 13 “And the Winner Is….”  

It’s the eighth time that our guests walk the red carpet before eating, drinking and then choosing from among six nominated and award-winning films that we screen in the heart of Hollywood’s award season. 

Comcast NBCUniversal generously underwrites this event so that all donations go directly to Tracy’s Kids.
Thanks to our friends at the studios, we will be showing:
  •  Argo Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Picture and Best Director.  Courtesy of Time Warner.

  • Silver Linings Playbook National Board of Review awards for Best Actor and Best Screenplay.  Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

  • Les Misérables — Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture (musical or comedy), Best Actor and Best Supporting ActressCourtesy of Comcast NBC Universal.

  • Zero Dark Thirty Awarded Best Picture by the Washington, DC, New York City, Chicago and Boston Film Critics’ Associations.  Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild — Winner of Camera d’Or at Cannes Film Festival.  Courtesy of News Corp.

  • Flight Writers’ Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay.   Courtesy of Viacom.

  • Lincoln Nominated for twelve Academy Award including best director, best actor, and best picture.  Courtesy of Dreamworks Studios and Walt Disney Studios.

In addition, this year we will present Congressman Dave Camp with our annual Courage Award – which is presented to a public person who exemplifies the strength, dignity and perseverance necessary to face the daily challenges imposed by cancer and its treatment.  Cong. Camp was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma this summer and is responding well to his ongoing treatment.  The past recipients are Arlen Specter, Marcelle Leahy, Barbara and Tim Johnson, John McCain, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sue Myrick and Barbara Grassley. 


Tracy’s Kids Invitation – February 13 2013

Click the link above to view the invitation. Please share it with anyone who you think may be interested in this fun evening to help pediatric cancer patients cope with the emotional stress and trauma of cancer and its treatment.  

 You can click here to purchase tickets via credit card.

If you require any additional information please give one of us a call or e-mail or reach out to Susan O’Neill at 301-320-8232. Thanks again for considering this extraordinary program.  We hope to see you on February 13, 2013. 


Taking the show on the road . . .

As the freezing rain turned to just plain rain this morning,  I rented a U-Haul van and went down to Carroll Square to take down the Tracy’s Kids show. Over the next few days, I will take the display boards apart and return the work to the young artists who created it. The show was such a great accomplishment, it was hard to see it close.

Our art show loaded into the van, ready to be safely returned to the kids!

Our art show loaded into the van, ready to be safely returned to the kids! But be on the lookout–you’ll see George and friends again.

But this year there’s an exciting twist. The Big Heads that were in the show will be featured at the Tracy’s Kids Red Carpet fundraiser on February 13–and our music video to the song “Keep Your Head Up” will make its official world premiere! Make your plans now to attend our Washington-style Red Carpet event–and check back here for the link to the video on February 14!

Time for valentines!


As January comes to an end and the holiday decorations are packed up, the clinic can feel cold and sterile.  The staff came to an agreement and announced ” time for Valentines!”.  Off came the red and green snowflake skirts on the paper ballerinas And on went the red and pink heart shaped skirts.  Multicolor confetti hearts sandwiched between clear contact paper hang from the nurses station windows. And curled paper heart mobiles are decorating the lab door.  For the curled hearts first cut paper into 1 or 2 inch long strips.  Fold each strip in half crossways.  Take a pencil, or paintbrush handle, and curl each strip down towards the inside of the fold.  Poke a hole in the middle of the fold, string a thread or ribbon through the hole, and place in between curls of heart.  Stick together with a clue dot.  Hang three to four along thread or ribbon with beads placed under each heart.  string a few beads on bottom edge of ribbon for weight. Although Valentines Day is not for three more weeks, it is important to celebrate everyday at the clinic.  Having holidays to decorate for creates a more welcome environment in the clinic which is so important!

Folded paper





Being Present

Often, as I hand materials over to my patients, I find myself wondering what they are going to make.  It is easy to get caught up in the final product- what something is “going to be” and what it will look like “when it is all done”.

That is why recently, when I handed a young patient a ball of clay and she replied, “Thanks, I am not going to make anything” she gave me a good reminder of why art making is so helpful in the first place. In our art space, just playing with the art materials is exactly what some of our patients need to be able to do.

A pioneer in the field of art therapy, Edith Kramer, believed that the process of making art, not just the creation of a finished work, could be very therapeutic. She advocated for art therapists to place equal value on the creation process as on the final art product. She trusted that therapeutic value can come from manipulation, exploration and experimentation with art materials.

As this young patient manipulated the clay she laughed and talked about how she enjoys the feel of the clay squishing through her fingers.  She described the color and smell of the clay and watched it change consistency as she saturated it with water. She also expressed how relaxing it is to just play with something, without any intention of making anything. The benefit for this patient came from just being in the moment. Encouraging our patients to use art to be present is an essential process, which allows them to recognize and experience their feelings.


Looking at all the crowds gathered for the Inauguration today makes me think about crowds and hospitals. Anyone who has ever been a patient in a hospital will tell you that the hospital is not like home.

The hospital seeks to be a safe place for people when their immune systems cannot handle the outside world. Some kids have to stay in isolation rooms with special air-cleaning systems to keep germs from getting in. Care providers and visitors must wear disposable gowns and gloves, so germs don’t sneak in on their clothes.

In the art rooms we use a lot of powerful disinfectant, as we have said before, but the hospitals also limit who comes to visit. During this year’s especially virulent flu season, many of our hospitals are limiting visitors. No special events or groups of visitors–only small numbers of family members–to minimize the germs that come into the hospital.

A big part of the value of Tracy’s Kids is that we can break up the monotony of treatment and recovery with creative work. As members of the treatment team, our art therapists are required to get flu shots, and are trained in how to implement infection-prevention protocols to keep the kids safe. Since we’re staff, not visitors, we are always there, just like doctors and nurses.

Here’s our model of the hospital depicting an epidemic of “Peeper Fever”–a whimsical view of infection control.

The photo I have shared is our entry in the Washington Post Magazine’s Peeps Diorama Contest two years ago. We depicted an epidemic of “Peeper Fever”–Justin Bieber was the hottest thing right then–but it’s made largely out of hospital “stuff” to give it the feel of the hospital. The kids had a great time using medicine caps, sterile tubing, and even a urinal to create a piece of art about infection control!

Tracy’s Kids Chairman

Learn more about Tracy’s Kids founder and Chairman,

Matt Gerson

and his personal reasons for championing this great program, click this link.





 In 2007 Matt was recognized as a Washingtonian of the year by Washingtonian Magazine as a result of his work with Tracy’s Kids. Under his leadership, Tracy’s Kids has grown from one therapist, our wonderful Tracy Councill at Georgetown University Hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Center, to the eight fantastic art therapists that we are so lucky to have at our five program locations.

 Click here to read more about Matt and his award.

Matt Gerson


Thank you, Matt. We are lucky to have you.




The 8th annual And the Winner Is…Tracy’s Kids event is now taking place in Washington, DC on the evening of

Wednesday, February 13th 2013


2012 was another great year for Tracy’s Kids and the children and families we serve. This year we provided some 15,000 free hours of art therapy in five pediatric cancer clinics.  And we have now spent over $2.5 million to help pediatric cancer patients cope with the emotional stress and trauma imposed by cancer and its treatment.
But we could not have done any of it without the financial support from our wonderful friends.
We hope that you will be able to join us at the eighth annual “And the Winner is….” which will take place on Wednesday evening, February 13, 2013.
That evening our guests will once again walk the red carpet before eating, drinking and then watching one of six nominated and award winning films that we screen right in the heart of Hollywood’s award season. 
Thanks to the success of this annual event, the Tracy’s Kids program is offered at no cost to the children we work with at four Washington area clinics – the Children’s National Medical Center in both Washington and Fairfax, the Life With Cancer program at Fairfax/Inova Hospital and the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University Hospital – plus Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.


Click here to view the official 2013 invitation: 

Tracy’s Kids Invitation – February 13 2013


You can purchase tickets by credit card through our online donation site or with a check by contacting Susan O’Neill & Associates at 301-229-0124 or

We hope to see you on the red carpet celebrating Tracy’s Kids on our new night:

Wednesday, February 13th!

Alligators In Cages


I think that sometimes we all wish that we could lock our fears and anxieties away in a place where we could feel safe from them.  Recently, I was working with a little girl who reminded me of the amazing power of art therapy to provide comfort and security in a scary place like the hospital.  This little girl asked me to work with her to make a picture using colored tape.  When I asked what I should make she answered immediately, “an alligator!!” When I made my masking tape alligator on the page she gasped, “oh no! He is going to bite us!”  I then asked this little girl if there was any thing we could do to keep this alligator from harming us.  After thinking for a second she responded, “Let’s put him in a cage!” We spent the remainder of the session making alligators and snakes and putting them inside of cages so we could be protected from their sharp teeth.  The next time I saw that little girl she replayed the same scenario with creating more scary creatures and putting them into cages.  This little girl became quite energetic while putting her scary animals into cages and seemed to feel incredibly empowered by that simple act.  For her, all it took was a roll of masking tape and she was able to keep her fears at bay and feel tough and in control over all the scary things happening around her in the hospital.   

Piecing It Together: The Art of Group Projects

Group projects are periodically introduced in the Inova pediatric oncology outpatient clinic as a way for patients to work together toward a common goal: to create one piece of art that represents all of the patients that come to clinic every week for treatment. These projects provide a way for patients to connect with one another, even when they don’t see each other at the clinic. Making art with multiple artists creates a sense of mystery. Each artist completes a piece, not knowing how it will contribute to the end result,  and others are added to it until the artwork is whole. The patients and family members know that the piece will hang in the clinic when it is completed for all to enjoy and everyone becomes invested in contributing to this community art piece.


Two multi-panel paintings were created recently;  a 24 panel zebra and a 9 panel butterfly. The images were drawn in black on a series of 4″ white canvas boards and individuals chose the panel they wished to work on. The only direction given was to use one color that was used in neighboring panels, understanding that the color could be incorporated in any way they chose. The intention was to create some continuity between the canvas panels. The butterfly and zebra came to life with each completed canvas. Everyone approached their piece in a different way and it was interesting to watch that process; to note which panel they each chose to work on, the colors they chose to use and the many different ways the canvases were painted.

These projects took some time to complete, but there was anticipation and interest throughout the process–and a sense of belonging and ownership for the many children, teens and adults who had a part in creating the final art piece. Although this work does not have the same therapeutic expression as an individual piece of art, there is power in the connection between those who contributed as they worked to create this piece with people they did not know or may not see any more in clinic due to treatment schedules. There was noticeable delight for some in learning who else had contributed to the butterfly and /or the zebra and for others in knowing that these were both a group collaboration.

There was excitement and surprise when the finished pieces were viewed for the first time. Patients and family members who worked on the butterfly or the zebra were surprised and delighted by what they had created and those who did not participate were excited about the finished piece as well. There continues to be much interest and investment in where the pieces will hang in the clinic and that perfect spot will be chosen soon.