Tracy’s Kids 2012 Annual Report

The 2012 Annual Report is now available!

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Tracy’s Kids participant at Life With Cancer

Included in the 2012 Annual Report are updates and photos from each of our five programs as well as financial information for the 2012 fiscal year.

The Art Room at CNMC

The Art Room at CNMCYou can access the

 You can access the report in the lower left hand corner of the homepage of our website or by clicking here.

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Kathleen Sutter and one of the Tracy’s Kids participants in the art room at MCH-San Antonio

 We are proud of the work done in 2012 and excited about all the new things happening this year for Tracy’s Kids!

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The entrance to Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University Hospital features Tracy’s Kids artwork all year long.

Beading!

Of the many art materials available to our patients, beads are one of our most popular. Often a patient or parent will come in wanting something to help pass the time or to make a gift for a loved one.   Usually, once one person starts beading other patients and parents start to jump in and we often end up with an impromptu beading party!

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Creating bracelets for friends

There are so many reasons why people are drawn to this kind of project, but one of the reasons that we encourage it in art therapy is that beading provides patients, siblings and parents a way to connect with each other. It can open the door for them to laugh together, support one another and share their experiences. For some the thrill of searching for just the right bead or helping someone else find it is rewarding and a helpful way to pass the time at the clinic. Others enjoy the ability to create something beautiful for oneself and loved ones.

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For other patients beading can provide a means of reflection and sharing information. One patient, when he first starting coming for treatment at our clinic, created a bracelet made up of beads he selected to represent each year of his life. Some beads represented significant experiences and other beads represented things he likes. The creation of the bracelet gave this patient the opportunity to introduce himself to the art therapists and share the parts of his life that he wanted us to know about.

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!

Words

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.

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

It’s coming together…

Between a busy art room full of patients, siblings and other family members out of school for Spring Break and making our usual visits to inpatient rooms we have been on our toes these past few weeks!  During a few spare moments we have begun to put together pieces of our collaborative canvas project from Creative Arts Therapies Week.  It has been so fun to see how smaller pieces of artwork born of so many different visions can come together to create something entirely new! 

Here is a glimpse of our progress! And we’ll show you the final project very soon… Stay tuned!

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Bravery

Many of the kids and their families that come to our clinic are very brave. You have to be to undergo treatment or watch someone you love undergo it. Many of our kids pride themselves for having courage in the face of needles and procedures. “You were really brave” can be the biggest compliment for a child after a scary procedure is finished.  

Acknowledging the bravery of a child also acknowledges that what they just did was scary and they had good reason to feel scared.  At times, it is tempting to downplay scary things to make kids feel less anxious.  However, acknowledging the child’s feelings allows for the child to be heard and find the courage needed to get through it.

Bravery also has many faces in our clinic- maybe it involves squeezing a stuffed animal, yelling, or distracting oneself with pictures of favorite things.  Sometimes it involves imagining a pleasant place.

Watercolor of a relaxing place

Watercolor of a relaxing place

Often, at the art therapy table, before a procedure a child will talk about the procedure, express fears, make art about something he or she likes or express some of the inner turmoil with splatters of paint across a canvas. As art therapists we facilitate this range of expressions- acknowledging worries, creating an art space to contain anxiety, helping to create a comforting place using art materials. All of these things help kids develop coping skills to help them through treatment as well as life’s future challenges.

Art Therapy on the BBC!

We were delighted to be part of a story by the BBC about the field of art therapy. The story tries to get at how and why art therapy works. It features interviews with art therapists Donna Betts and Heidi Bardot, as well as students from GWU’s Art Therapy program and some great footage of our own Kate Martin working with some of our wonderful kids.

Here’s the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21579762

 BBC News Magazine
IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Click here to find out more!

The Power of Art: Can creativity cure the sick?

 25 February 2013 Last updated at 21:03 ET
Can unleashing inner creativity heal the sick?

Nine-year-old leukaemia patient Ryan is in no doubt. “It makes you feel like you can do anything really,” he says of the art therapy classes he enjoys, thanks to a US charity.

The American military has also long embraced art therapy, using it as a core treatment to help veterans recover from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Now top brass are leading research to find out why this kind of treatment works.

As Jane O’Brien reports in the second part of our Power of Art series, mounting clinical evidence of art’s medical benefits could bring new and exciting ways to harness its power.

Message in a Bottle (Actually, Under a Bottle Cap)

Most everyone reading this has (at some point or another) consumed a beverage whose brilliant marketing campaign includes having a witty saying or bizarre fact printed on the underside of the bottle cap.  Before you even take a sip, you feel compelled turn over the cap and read the message… It is simply irresistible.

Several months ago, fate missed me by a few feet and gave a bottle of tea (obviously meant for me) to one of my dear friends. That bottle cap carried this message…

Art therapist, more fun than doctor.

More Fun Than Doctor

A phrase that art therapists hear time and time again is, “your job looks like SO MUCH FUN!”  And I cannot argue with that – We really do get to have a lot of fun, throwing paint and sand and glitter around the art therapy room. But art therapy is so much more. We work very hard, trying to support patients and their families through a very challenging time in their lives. Sometimes, our most difficult task of the day is helping kids be able to have fun, even while they are in the hospital. Seeing children (who had been quiet and withdrawn earlier in their hospitalizations) get back to JUST HAVING FUN is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work.

Every day we go to work, we get to have some of the most meaningful interactions imaginable. We truly do have the very best jobs in the world. And we do have a lot of fun.

My thanks to Jackie Verrecchia, the author of this wonderful six-word memoir.

Radiation mask

 Much of our time working with children with cancer and other life-altering diseases is spent trying to transform thoughts and experiences that are challenging and really scary into something more manageable.  Incorporating pieces of medical equiptment into artwork can help to normalize kids’ experiences and give them a sense of mastery and control during their treatment process.  Art work such as this can serve as a reminder of the bravey and resilience shown by children facing such daunting medical treatment.

The mother of one of our young patients (who recently underwent a bone marrow transplant) brought his radiation mask to the art therapists, asking them to transform it into “something that can hang in [my child’s] room to remind him of everything he’s gotten through.”

radiation mask

A common part of the preparation regimen for a bone marrow transplant is radiation, which destroys the patient’s own bone marrow in order to make way for the donor’s bone marrow. If the radiation is to a person’s head, a radiation mask is made to help keep the person’s head still and in the same position for each radiation treatment (which can be multiple days, sometimes over the course of several weeks).  The creation and wearing of a radiation mask can be a very scary experience, as materials are stretched over the child’s face in order to ensure an accurate fit.  During radiation, a child must wear the hardened mask which is secured to a table. 

Using a heat tool and scissors, the art therapists were able to cut away the extra material from the face of the radiation mask and painted it with bright colors and stars.  Now the mask is a fantastic reminder for the patient and his family of the many challenges they have overcome throughout their fight against cancer.  

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