This time of year brings lots of great news about the accomplishments of our young people. With his family’s permission, I wanted to share some truly inspiring news from Tracy’s Kids participant Noah Grove.
When Noah was five, I was part of the team that helped him through cancer treatment. Though he had an above-the-knee amputation, Noah became a wonderful athlete–first playing golf, then running, and other sports. Now, ten years later, his family encouraged him to try out for the Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. At first he didn’t want to because he doesn’t consider himself disabled. Long story short, he made the training camp.
His mom shared part of the letter he got from the USA Hockey Player Development Committee:
You have been selected by the USA Hockey Player Development Committee as one of the top players in the sled hockey community and are invited to participate in the 8th Annual 2013 USA SledHockey Select Camp to be conducted July 13, 2013 through July 18, 2013 in Buffalo, NewYork. Attendance at this Camp is by invitation only.
He trains with the Wounded Warriors, too! What a great success story! Proud to know you.
WTG Noah!!!!!!!!!

Outstanding Student Citizen Award!

Tracy’s Kids participant Kailee Vance popped into the clinic at Georgetown today with some great news. At her fifth-grade graduation ceremony, she received the Ashburn, VA Ruritan Club’s Outstanding Student Citizen Award.

One fifth grader from each elementary school is selected through a blind review process. Kailee submitted a resume listing her community service activities, chief among them her ongoing support of Tracy’s Kids.

Kailee’s Run was established in her honor in 2007 and Tracy’s Kids has been the primary beneficiary every year. Kailee has also collected art supplies and toys for the kids at the clinic for many years–even when she was still receiving treatment. The really amazing thing about Kailee’s application is that she did not even mention that she had been a cancer patient–she just talked about her efforts to improve the lives of kids with cancer–and the application was reviewed anonymously, so the judges didn’t know who Kailee was. Her mom said there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the award was announced at Newton-Lee Elementary School, where everyone knows her very well!

Congratulations, Kailee, and thanks to the Ashburn Ruritan Club for the check made out to Tracy’s Kids in honor of Kailee Vance!

Ashburn Ruritan Club Outstanding Student Citizen 2013

Kailee Vance-Ashburn Ruritan Club Outstanding Student Citizen 2013

what motivated Kailee to care so very much

Location Change

Due to the threat of thunderstorms, tonight’s art exhibit, Abstractions by Kari Kant, with additional work by Tracy’s Kids, will be moved to its rain location, the offices of BGR Group, 601 Thirteenth St., NW, Washington, DC, Eleventh Floor. We hope to see you there!

Note rain location at bottom of invitation!!

Note rain location at bottom of invitation!!

What a view!

We are looking forward to Abstractions, by Kari Kant, this Thursday, June 6 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. on the Rooftop Terrace of the Newseum Residences.

Kari is a local artist who has adopted Tracy’s Kids as a charitable partner for her show. Each of our local Tracy’s Kids locations created a beautiful peice of American Flag themed art to display, along with Ms. Kant’s abstract paintings and American Flag themed work.



Newseum building space

Rooftop Terrace

Lombardi Flag

Lombardi Flag

LWC Flag

Life with Cancer/Inova Flag


CCBD-NoVa Flag

    I got to visit Kari and deliver the art on Saturday, and I was bowled over by the view of Washington. Participants in Tracy’s Kids and our local friends are invited to attend–but please let us know if you can make it. Meanwhile, please enjoy this sneak preview of the view from the building and the flags from Tracy’s Kids!

Abstraction, by Kari Kant

Kari Kant front Kari Kant back

A local artist, Kari Kant, will be showing her new abstract paintings in the Rooftop Terrace of the Newseum Building on June 6. She chose Tracy’s Kids as a charitable partner–a portion of her sales will be donated to Tracy’s Kids!

One of Ms. Kant’s motifs is the American Flag, creatively abstracted, so each Tracy’s Kids location is hard at work creatting a group piece of art on the Flag theme to be included in the show. Patients, families and friends of Tracy’s Kids are welcome to attend the Thursday evening event, but please let us know if you plan to attend so we can put your name on the list.

Junior Monet

 We are working with a company called Junior Monet to make items with the Tracy’s Kids logo or works of art by our kids available for purchase from their website. They have zillions of products-magnets, buttons, key chains, water bottles, aprons, dry erase boards, laptop sleeves, messenger bags–even neckties!

Right now the only image in our Junior Monet gallery is the Tracy’s Kids logo, but we will be inviting kids to create artwork especially for the project, so check back in a week or two to see what is available. We think the kids will get a kick out of seeing their art made into functional objects, and families, staff and friends will enjoy collecting the kids’ art. Click on the Junior Monet logo above and it will take you to a preview page  so you can see  the different products.  And best of all, Tracy’s Kids will receive 30% of every purchase!


Working with kids keeps me humble. The other day my friend Peter,  an adorable two-year old, was coloring at the art table. He dropped his crayon and it rolled on the floor. As he bent down to get it  he said, “Oh Lord, what is that child doing!”  and broke into peals of laughter.  I laughed too, because I realized he was repeating something I had said to him as we were playing with model magic a few days before. I was making little objects and he was destroying them as fast as I could make them–so I must have said  that line when feigning dismay in our little game. He has a great vocabulary and a wonderful sense of humor–and apparently he quotes me all the time!

It is so much fun to help kids grow up–to interact with them in a way that helps them feel confident and competent and ready to take on the world. It is also a big responsibility. I hope that  sense of fun and engagement will stay with all our kids as they grow and move beyond the medical hardships they face in their early years. My own early experiences with parents, grandparents, teachers  and others who were happy to let me play and explore and to listen to my observations about the world have made me a more confident and imaginative person, and a better art therapist.

Peter and Tracy

Peter and Tracy

  His parents were very happy for me to share his story, so here’s a picture of the two of us.


Me and my grandmother

Me and my grandmother


I have also included a photo of me a long time ago with one of my wonderful grandmothers.

Reaffirming the Good

Continuing through May, there is a wonderful art show in the Lombardi Atrium. It is the work of artist Kristrinah Ayala. She is exhibiting eight wonderful, large watercolor portraits of doctors, nurses, and other people who play a part in her healing process.

Her story is amazing. She was sick as a child and spent a lot of time isolated in the hospital, using paint by numbers and the hidden pictures puzzles in Highlights magazine to keep herself busy. As an adult, she began painting and found that her way of composing paintings was like paint by numbers. Her work is fascinating–recognizable and beautiful and abstract all at once.

When she had to deal with a serious illness again as an adult, she turned to painting as a creative outlet and to express her appreciation to her caregivers. She writes: “My goal is that you, the viewer, see more than just a visual appearance. My hope is that you catch a glimpse of each person’s unique spirit.” Her website is  Ms. Ayala will be on hand at Lombardi on May 18 from 2-4:00 p.m. to talk about her work.

Her show is part of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Arts and Humanities Program.


Managing Anxiety

When bad things happen, people often experience anxiety. Anxiety is about protecting yourself from something bad that could happen, but it might not.

When kids and families come to the hospital, a very bad thing has already happened, but there is lots we can do to help. Even when they’re getting better, a serious illness can leave people feeling anxious, especially parents and siblings. Even when the bad things happen someplace else, we may still feel on edge. Since we can’t make every possible bad thing go away, it is important to have some tools to manage anxiety.

Working creatively is a great way to cope. When you are immersed in the creative process, your attention is focused on the present moment–it’s what people call the creative flow.  If you get your best ideas in the shower or at the gym or while driving your car, you have experienced “flow.”  Being in the flow lets you take a little vacation from your worries–you feel relaxed, refreshed, more “normal” and able to cope.

Drawing, coloring, working with play-doh or clay, knitting, scrapbooking, playing a musical instrument, gardening , walking, vacuuming–any activity that gets your hands busy and your mind relaxed can help you feel more calm. Even imagining a beautiful, safe, comfortable place can help your mind and body relax. In these anxious days, it is important to connect with the peace and strength within.

The photo below is one of my favorite images of a beautiful, safe, relaxing place. It’s a spot in the mountains full of bebalm and butterflies.  I have also included a drawing I made about that place. Maybe you will find that place relaxing too–but if not, you can probably find another picture that works for you.

Turk's Cap Lilies, Beebalm and Butterflies

Turk’s Cap Lilies, Beebalm and Butterflies

Butterfly and Beebalm

Butterfly and Beebalm

Grand Rounds, April 19

 I will be speaking at Georgetown University Hospital’s Grand Rounds on Friday, April 19 at 8:00 a.m. Grand Rounds is a lecture series provided for the whole medical community, and it is a real privilege to be invited to present. I will give a short history of how Tracy’s Kids got started at Georgetown over 20 years ago, and then talk about the theory and practice of the approach that grew into Tracy’s Kids.  Everyone is welcome, so please come if you can!


MedStar Georgetown University Hospital


 April 19, 8:00 a.m.

Lombardi Cancer Center Research Auditorium

Art Therapy in Pediatric Medicine

by Tracy Councill, MA, ATR-BC

Tracy headshot

In 1991, with a grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, Tracy Councill started the Art Therapy Program in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Georgetown University Hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Center. Medstar Georgetown University Hospital’s core value of “cura personalis” allowed this unique program to grow and flourish, eventually becoming Tracy’s Kids,, a non-profit that serves thousands of young people and their families here at Georgetown and in other centers.

Ms. Councill will provide a short history of the Art Therapy Program, and discuss the theory and practice of art therapy in medicine, emphasizing the role of art therapy in supporting normalization, resilience and coping in patients with chronic life-threatening illnesses.

Ms. Councill’s professional awards include: the Potomac Art Therapy Association Professional Development Award, 2008; the American Art Therapy Association Clinician Award, Children, 2004; the Holly Award for Excellence in Patient Care, 2003, Lombardi Cancer Center; the Lombardi Cancer Center Award, October, 2001; and the Individual award for Excellence in Professional Practice, 2000, Georgetown University Hospital.

Accreditation Statement: The Georgetown University Hospital is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. Designation Statement: The Georgetown University Hospital designates this educational activity for a maximum of 1AMA PRA Category Credit(s)™. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent to their participation in the activity. For more information on our Department, including educational opportunities, please visit us at:

3800 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007