Archives for November 2013


Every November at Georgetown we gather in the hospital chapel for an interfaith “Service of Remembrance,” a time to remember the children who have died in our care. Though most  kids with cancer will be cured and go on to do very well, our treatments are not always successful, but all the kids we work with mean a lot to us.Heart pot

At the service we read words of comfort from  many traditions, sing , and light a candle in honor of each child whose family attends. At the reception after the service this year I was talking with the father of a very dear little girl who had died about a month before. I had worked with the patient and her siblings for all the years of her treatment. They are such creative characters–and their work in art therapy helped them express the ups and downs of treatment and get the support they needed along the way.

The patient’s dad asked me what I thought of the service.  I said I thought it was very nice, and asked what he thought. “Grateful,” he replied. “The whole afternoon just made me feel grateful.” This Thanksgiving eve, as I prepare to join family and friends, I am grateful for all the young people and families I work with every day and the many ways they challenge my imagination and enrich my life.

Time For a Check Up!

Play therapy and art therapy often go hand-in-hand, especially at our clinic.  Many of our younger patients will engage in an art making process that turns into a puppet show and then a song or a dance. Often the play that our patients engage in reflects their experiences in the clinic.  Medical play kits allow patients to become doctors, surgeons and nurses performing everything from check- ups to shots on dolls, siblings, parents and staff.

Medical play also allows patients to be in control of something that is potentially scary. Reenacting a scary shot or procedure can help a child feel more in control of their own medical care.

Recently one of our clinic dads got a check up from two of our youngest doctors. They were very thorough in the exam- blood pressure and temperature were repeatedly checked!

medical play1

medical play2


Caption this!

Caption this!

Caption this!

One of our families has a relative serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan. They asked if the kids at the clinic would like to create a garland of “gingerbread men” to send over for the soldiers to decorate their unit. We were delighted to help out.

One day my intern and I took a bunch of blank gingerbread people up for a patient in the hospital to paint. After the patient and her sister and the art therapists were done, we had eight beautiful creations decorated with very wet puff paint. On the way back down to the clinic where our creations could dry in safety, I rounded a corner in the radiation corridor and a gust of wind blew one of our darling little people onto the floor–face down!! When I picked it up, the print it left was really a funny sight! Someone who worked in the area helped us clean it up, and the little guy looked just fine when he dried–fortunately the artist had used plenty of paint!

Gingerbread men

The Ninth Annual “And the Winner Is…” Event!

The ninth annual “And the Winner Is…” event will be on Tuesday, February 25, 2014!

The format for the event this February will remain unchanged from previous years – as we are proud to host one of Washington’s most unique and anticipated fundraisers with no dinner or lengthy speechifying – just a reception and then the chance to watch one of the six nominated and award-winning films that we screen that night.

That evening we will also present our annual Courage Award to a public person who exemplifies the strength, dignity and perseverance necessary to face the daily challenges imposed by cancer and its treatment.  The recipient this year will be Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.  The Senator is a determined advocate for breast cancer detection and prevention.  She unabashedly tells her own story — from discovery to mastectomy to remission – with characteristic candor and good humor.
 The past recipients of the award are Arlen Specter, Marcelle Leahy, Barbara and Tim Johnson, John McCain, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sue Myrick, Barbara Grassley and Dave Camp.

If you would like to purchase tickets, have any questions, or are interested in learning more, please contact Susan O’Neill & Associates at 301-229-0124 or

To purchase tickets with a  credit card, please visit our Click and Pledge website!

We are looking forward to another great year and hope to see everyone on Tuesday, February 25, 2014!


TK14EVENT-STD 2All proceeds from the evening support the Tracy’s Kids pediatric art therapy programs that help young cancer patients cope with the emotional stress and trauma surrounding cancer and its treatment — all provided free of charge to the patients and families we serve.  Thanks to your help over the years, we have an unequaled presence throughout the DC metropolitan area as well at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Dr. Aziza Shad on Tracy’s Kids

“It is not unusual to walk into our clinic at Georgetown and see children with infusions in their arms, crayons in their hands, and smiles on their faces.  That uncanny juxtaposition is inspiring and contagious — and it is all thanks to the art therapy provided by Tracy’s Kids.”

Aziza Shad, MD
Director, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Lombardi Cancer Center

Medstar Georgetown University Hospital

Earlier this month MedStar Georgetown University Hospital gave Tracy and Matt an award for our work on behalf of the children treated at its Lombardi Cancer Center. In making the presentation, Dr. Aziza Shad described Tracy’s Kids as the heart and soul of the clinic. She explained that when she interviewed at Lombardi, the very first thing she saw were children sitting at an art table receiving their infusions “with smiles on their faces and crayons in their hands.”  She thanked us for the over $1million that we have given to the pediatric clinic over the past fifteen years — but that thanks should be extended to our donors and supporters. It is because of all the generous donations that Tracy’s Kids is able to help address the emotional toll that cancer and its treatment impose on the children and families that we serve. On behalf of Tracy, Matt and the entire Tracy’s Kids team, we would like to thank our supporters for all that they have given and continue to give to this wonderful program.




The Nurse’s Song

Today a couple of other staff members and I attended a concert in the Friday music series at Georgetown University. We are lucky to be so close to such wonderful resources. We had been invited by Barbara Hollinshead, the mezzo soprano soloist who was performing. Her son was treated at our clinic last year, but now he is happily off at college.

The concert featured songs by Benjamin Britten. Before she sang two of them, from “A Charm of Lullabies,” she said that she had first learned these songs when she was pregnant with her youngest son–and that the one called “The Nurse’s Song” had taken on a whole new meaning when he was being treated for cancer at Lombardi. She said it meant a lot to her to have folks from her son’s clinic come to hear her sing. Honestly, we were the lucky ones. Music

Dream Traps

Over the course of treatment some of our young patients have nightmares, which are often related to their treatment experiences. One little girl came into the clinic upset about a nightmare she had had the night before. During her medical exam she told her parents and the treatment team about her nightmare and how it continued to scare her. As art therapists often do with kids who have nightmares, she was encouraged her to draw the dream. Once she drew it we discussed ways that we could get rid of the dream picture (by throwing it out, crumpling it into a ball, etc). This allows the child to externalize their experience and literally get rid of a scary thing.

However, once the patient had drawn the nightmare she decided that instead of throwing it away a better way to deal with it was to trap it in a dream trap. Using colored paper and LOTS of tape, we assembled an elaborately constructed trap. The trap was so complex in design that once it was complete the little girl, looking triumphant, confidently said, “no bad dream is getting out of here!”

tape blog photo 4

Several weeks later this patient returned to the clinic in need of a new dream trap because the one she made last time “was completely full”. So we got to work on a new, even more elaborate and colorful dream trap. This little girl even inspired other patients at the art table to create their own dream traps as well.

Puppet Friends

Young children especially love mixed media work. Exploring shape and texture, and processes such as gluing, rolling, taping, and all different ways of putting things together is fascinating for the preschool set. Yesterday at the art table I had two three-year olds and a four-year old working together for much of the morning.

At one point I got out a box of 3-D things to glue on paper–colored macaroni, popsicle sticks and little wooden disks. One of the kids began drawing faces on the wooden disks–really charming first-faces. She named the parts as she drew them–eyes, nose, mouth (a silly mouth!), ears, hair–as young children often do. I started making a face on a disk too, and soon we were gluing the faces onto popsicle sticks and having all kinds of great little plays with our puppet friends.

The young artists loved that they got to use the popsicle sticks to dig lots of glue from the glue stick–and then we had to put masking tape over the whole thing to get it to stay together until it dried. (Waiting for the glue to dry was out of the question!)Using tape and glue makes a little person feel very grown up.

Friend Puppets Hide and Seek Puppets Setting up Puppets

I hope you will enjoy these pictures of our puppet friends. The one where you can’t see the faces is the puppets playing hide-and-seek–by putting an extra wooden disk over their faces.