Summer Carnival

Today was one of the best days of the year for the patients and families we work with at Georgetown. Hope for Henry (www.hopeforhenry.org), a local nonprofit whose mission is to bring smiles to the faces of kids in the hospital, brought its annual Summer Carnival to the Lombardi Cancer Center. Tracy’s Kids sponsored the Carnival—and later in the month we will again join forces for the second annual Summer Carnival at Children’s National Medical Center across town. The smiles on the kids’ faces tell the whole story of a day filled with amazing fun and surprises. Enjoy!

In other news, Friday begins our annual Summer Art Workshop series, described below. Patients in any of our four Washington, DC area programs are invited to join us for creative fun starting this Friday, August 3. Please email Tracy (tracy@tracyskids.org) if you can come.

The story of the Chinese Dragon

Two five-year olds with leukemia met at the art table in our Georgetown clinic, one from a suburb of Washington, DC and the other newly-arrived from China—fluent in two dialects, but just learning English. Cancer wasn’t the only thing the boys had in common—they both loved dragons! They bonded over drawing dragons and comparing their toys, and soon became fast friends.

Despite having cancer, on good days they had plenty of noisy creative energy. Around Chinese New Year we started talking about dragons. The one little guy’s dad knew an awful lot about them, so we decided to make one. Over the next few weeks, a silk fan, dryer hose, an empty plastic tub, ping-pong balls and duct tape became a six-foot long miniature dragon that the boys paraded around the clinic.

For the kids, the highlight was syringe-painting while cotton cloth to make the “skin” of the dragon. For me, as the art therapist, the best part was seeing their evolving project become the focus of each day’s clinic visit. Scheduled chemo faded to the background and friendship and collaboration took over. The boys bounded into the clinic asking, “Can we work on the dragon today?”

I have put up photos of the evolving dragon project to show you how you can make one too. Check out our Pinterest board for the details!

Art Therapy

When I tell people I am an art therapist for children with cancer, they often say “Oh my, that must be so sad!” But it isn’t. If you sit down at the art table in any of the Tracy’s Kids programs you will see a lot of laughter—and a lot of concentration. It’s fun to create, and creating can be fun even if you’re also getting chemo at the same time.

Think about the last time you were lost in whatever you were doing—cooking dinner, taking a walk, listening to music—your were busy, your imagination was rolling and time flew by. You were experiencing “flow,” an important ingredient in the creative process, and a big part of the healing power of art.

One of the benefits of art therapy is the opportunity to get in that groove. Cancer treatment takes a long time—in between the shock of the diagnosis and the first checkup when the doctor says you’re cancer free there are weeks, months, sometimes years, of chemo, scans, blood tests and all kinds of supportive care. Bringing art therapy to the infusion center makes waiting time productive. Play, creation, connection, self-expression, and relaxation cultivate a sense of community and excitement in our clinics.

We will be sharing vignettes from all five Tracy’s Kids programs on our blog—art ideas, great stories, glimpses of the fun and creativity the Tracy’s Kids art therapists witness every day.

For more on the concept of “flow,” see the website http://winmentalhealth.com/arts_therapy.php. There is an excellent article on the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who studies creativity, art therapy and flow.

Tomorrow, the story of the Chinese Dragon. . .

Elephant Wisdom

In 2002, the District of Columbia hosted a public art exhibit called Party Animals. Artists from all over the area were invited to submit designs to decorate an elephant or donkey-the symbols of our two main political parties.

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Artwork By Tracy’s Kids Exhibition

From December 9, 2011 to January 13, 2012, Tracy’s Kids exhibited artwork at the Carroll Square Gallery.

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