“Keep your head up!”

At last night’s “And the Winner is  Tracy’s Kids”  Red Carpet fundraiser we premiered our music video to Andy Grammer’s song “Keep Your Head Up!” It’s pretty much guaranteed to make you smile– great advice from our wonderful kids. Check it out, it will make your day.


And here are some pictures of the Big Heads making their way to last night’s event and back to the hospital to be returned to the kids!

Big heads on their way to the Red Carpet

Big heads on their way to the Red Carpet

Kate and the Big Heads in the Main Hallway at Georgetown

Kate and the Big Heads in the Main Hallway at Georgetown

Back in Lombardi Lobby

Back in Lombardi Lobby

Getting Ready for the Red Carpet!

As we may have mentioned once or twice, our big annual “And the winner is. . .Tracy’s Kids,” Red Carpet Fundraiser is coming up on Wednesday, February 13. This will be the eighth event—our one big fundraising event of the year.

For those who have not attended before, it is a fun occasion—a Washington Style Red Carpet—business attire, not evening dress–and our guests are not movie stars, but members of Congress, their staff, and other friends of Tracy’s Kids.
What a crowd!


The Tracy's Kids Courage AwardAmanda Johnson and Mom

The real expert speaks!

I have been honored to shake hands with the likes of Arlen Specter, Patrick and Marcelle Leahy,  Mike and Karen Pence, Barbara and Tim Johnson, John McCain, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ben Cardin, Sue Myrick, Charles and Barbara Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Chris Matthews and George Stephanopoulos as they expressed their support and appreciation for the work of Tracy’s Kids.

As an artist and art therapist, I am most at home outside the spotlight. Working with kids and families at the hospital is a low-key kind of work. It has value in part because it helps patients and families feel normal in a place that isn’t like home.

iphone pictures 2012 079

It is both an honor and a little daunting to “say a few words” to an audience full of lawmakers—but these folks are kind, gracious, open and real—and they make it a great event. I am very, very lucky to be “Tracy of Tracy’s Kids!”

The Show, Part 2!

An unexpected opportunity arose late last week when there was a sudden opening in the Lombardi Atrium Gallery schedule. Arts and Humanities Director Nancy Morgan invited us to put up work by the kids–and we had just taken down our show at Carroll Square, so the timing was perfect!

There wasm’t room for everything–no sculptures and only some of the flat work–but it’s a great opportunity to enjoy our kids’ thoughtfulness and creativity a little longer! Please enjoy the photos of the gallery below:



Beautiful colors by kids from three of our programs

Beautiful colors by kids from three of our programs



Poems, stories, and play on reflection and symmetry

Poems, stories, and play on reflection and symmetry

Very fine drawings!

Very fine drawings!

Thoughts about faces by kids of all ages

Thoughts about faces by kids of all ages

Painted thoughts

Painted thoughts

Community treehouse from CCBD-NoVa clinic!

Community treehouse from CCBD-NoVa clinic!

Beautiful reflections on treatment by a young adult patient

Beautiful reflections on treatment by a young adult patient

Tracy's Kids at Lombardi 2013

Tracy’s Kids at Lombardi 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!


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!

Birthday Celebration!

Last week a new leukemia patient came in to clinic with her mom. She has been kind of shy since diagnosis but we’ve gradually gotten her involved at the art table. She was excited to put  a little sculpture  in our show at Carroll Square.

The tiny red bird’s nest on the right side of the podium is by the birthday girl!

She  just turned five on Tuesday, so she was all excited about her birthday. Her mom prompted her to tell me what they had done to celebrate–“I took my family to see the art show!” She was grinning from ear to ear.


Tracy’s Kids at Carroll Square Update

The Tracy’s Kids at Carroll Square show is looking really good. As promised, here are some pictures from the reception. They were taken with Tracy’s phone camera, so they’re not the best quality, but we hope you’ll enjoy them!

Keeping it Clean

The Tracy’s Kids Art Rooms in every location are a welcome oasis of creative chaos in the hospital environment. We like to have a colorful selection of art supplies on hand to inspire young artists. Many kids leave their recent works in the art room for everyone to see.


Art Room Display Board at Lombardi

All this is inviting, but since we work with kids with suppressed immune systems, we have to be very careful to keep all this stuff clean. We keep down the clutter as much as we can, sending artwork home or filing it away for safekeeping, but most importantly WE CLEAN!

 Hospital Grade Disinfectant

Every day the art tables, chairs, markers and pencils are cleaned with hospital disinfectant wipes, and EVERYTHING in the area—toys, brushes, containers, clay tools—is cleaned at least once a week. We want the kids to be comfortable and have fun, so we do our best to provide an experience that is both spontaneous and safe!

Being together

I have learned a lot in my 20+ years working with pediatric cancer patients and their families. After I had been on the job about six months, I had a revelation of sorts. It occurred to me that most people are simply unaware that kids can get cancer. I was a young parent myself, worried about developmental milestones and saving for college–but not about cancer!

Robin’s nest

But knowing what I knew changed my perspective on my kids. I was still anxious about the future, but I also truly cherished the present. I made sure that we did lots of fun stuff together, spent time with relatives and told stories about my own childhood. I wanted to really know my kids and help them know me–and I was grateful for the time we had together every day.

It didn’t make me a perfect parent–far from it–but we had some real good times.

Now, after Newtown, we are all painfully aware that bad things really do happen. In a time when the world seems more full of sadness and loss than ever, I am reminded of the lesson of this work–love those you hold dear, and make time for fun every day.

Holiday Cheer!

A proud house builder!

A friend of the Tracy’s Kids program at Georgetown generously donated a whole bunch of pre-built gingerbread houses and candy to decorate them. Thank-you, Shazalyn Cavin Winfrey of SCW Designs, for making Monday at the clinic fun!

Making gingerbread houses at the clinic