Here are some reflections on Tracy’s Kids—from the brave participants and families who have experienced the program first hand as well as the medical professionals treating them…
“The art room helps keep my mind off of the really scary things that I have been through. I like going there because I can still have fun even though I am at the hospital.”
Sydni Jankowski, 10 years old, Tracy’s Kids artist
“The art room and its support staff has been an invaluable resource for our family throughout my daughter’s two year treatment for leukemia. Between port accesses, chemotherapy infusions, lumbar punctures, and blood transfusions, the hospital could have easily been a frightening place for my child. In the initial stages of treatment, I experienced a tremendous amount of anxiety when preparing my daughter for an upcoming visit to the oncology clinic. However, her reaction to my announcements soon became one of happy excitement. She loves her doctors and nurses, but it was the anticipation of seeing the art therapists and planning her next art project that brought her so much joy. With awe, I watched as my daughter’s creativity flourished and she was able to escape all of the fear and pain of treatment with a stroke of a paintbrush. We now have a collection of puppets, play dough sculptures, masks, and paintings commemorating her journey from being a very sick little girl to one who has thrived despite her hardships. With much fondness, I look back on the day I asked Rylie if she would like to go to the city for an adventure. Imagine my surprise when instead of choosing the zoo or a museum, Rylie asked if we could go to the art room at Children’s National. When I see the faces of the other children in the art room, I know that this is a service that is just as important as the life saving surgeries and medications they are receiving. The art therapists lovingly restore a part of their patients’ childhood that could otherwise be lost among the monotony of long hospital visits. They treat the soul and provide respite with their friendly smiles, creative minds, and their seemingly magical cupboards filled with every art supply one could imagine or desire.”
Mother of Rylie Richards, an eight-year-old artist
“I began treatment at the Lombardi Cancer Center as a 19 year old and have recently celebrated my fifth anniversary of remission from Leukemia. When I think back on the experience, I am grateful for Tracy’s Kids and the way it provided me with a creative, distracting outlet during the course of my treatment. More than any other activity or venue, art therapy enabled my family to engage in my treatment and receive support when it was difficult to understand or discuss the intricacies of my medical situation. Further, it allowed us all to connect with other patients and their families in a positive environment, and made the clinic a community — far more joyful and low-pressure than a patient room.”
Former Tracy’s Kids Participant
“Our son, Devan, was first diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 20 months, he relapsed at the age of four and had to undergo a bone marrow transplant. He is now seven and in remission.
“He’s spent years in and out of Georgetown hospital. This autumn we were talking about his birthday party and he said that instead of presents, he wanted to give to the Georgetown (pediatric oncology) clinic and the Tracy’s Kids art therapy program that they run there.
“I asked him why, and he replied…”when I had cancer, I knew it was a deadly disease and I was sad”, wiping away badly stifled tears. “Then I did art at the clinic, and you know, it made me happy again”.
“It may seem like a simple little comment, but it carries so much weight in this young kid’s life. He had never spoken like that to me before, and I was surprised to hear him talk so bluntly of his fear of cancer. That is when the value of this fantastic art program, really sunk home to me, and how lucky Devan has been to have been able to participated in it throughout these hardship years.
“For him, the fear of the next bone marrow biopsy, surgery, needle poke, or transfusion was quietly being pushed aside by the fun of painting , doing a collage, making pottery, inventing a mobile or decorating a dreamcatcher, all the while, chatting away those fears with the engaging art therapists!!”
Father of Tracy’s Kids artist
“The art room helps our patients communicate creatively through the various projects they complete. Most of my patients have their best time of the day while they are in the art room, and actually look forward to coming to clinic because of it! Many times throughout the day, I ask my patients, ‘Do you have any questions?’ and they respond, ‘Can I go to the art room now?’” – Haneen Shalabi, DO, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellow
March 4, 2013
“As an art therapist, I have always been impressed and inspired by Tracy’s Kids. The music video put together by the some of the children they serve moved me to tears of joy because it so beautifully conveys the resiliency they cultivate in the children they work with. Being active in the art therapy community, I always was aware of Tracy’s Kids does, but the video on YouTube — http://youtu.be/I91AVXNsb1c — brings the message home even more clearly. This program deserves our recognition and gratitude for what they bring to the children and families they work with and for what they bring to the field. Art therapist Tracy Councill, who founded this program, was also recently interviewed for the BBC News Magazine online series, “The Power of Art” — http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21579762 — dated February 27, 2013. In this interview she talks about the program and also about research into the benefits of art therapy with children. (More can be found about research on the website of the American Art Therapy Association.) So, a big Kudos to Tracy Councill and Tracy’s Kids, not only for the high quality work they do in helping medically ill children and supporting their families, but also for bringing to the eyes of the public this much needed programming. We need many more programs like Tracy’s Kids everywhere. There are some other good ones out there, but not nearly enough.”
Laura Loumeau-May, MPS, ATR-BC, LPC
May 29, 2013
“As Chief of Hematology and Oncology at Children’s National Medical Center, I give Tracy’s Kids my most enthusiastic endorsement. We have learned over the years that successful treatment of childhood cancer involves not just the medical treatment, but also strong patient and family support services. Cancer treatment take a major toll on the psychological well being of the patient and family. It is crucial to have support systems in place to make the overall experience as tolerable as possible. Tracy’s Kids provides outstanding art therapists who occupy the children during treatment and provide an outlet for their feelings and anxieties. The children absolutely adore the art therapists and often don’t want to go home if it means leaving the art therapy room! The Tracy’s Kids program has become a key component of our overall care; I don’t know what we’d do without them! The organization is most highly worthy of support.”Jeffrey S. Dome, MD, PhDChief, Divisions of Hematology and OncologyMcKnew Professor of Pediatric OncologyChildren’s National Medical Center
October 13, 2014
“There have been too many times to count when physicians walk through the back and say “are you still here?” to families. They stay because they value their time and want to be in the art therapy area…
“If Tracy’s Kids didn’t exist, if the art therapists were not here, this center would still provide quality medical care, but a piece of the heart of the program would be missing.
“Patients look for [the art therapist] when they come for treatment and for follow-up visits, parents appreciate her support, and staff members rely on her help with celebrations, remembrances, and creative outlets for emotions.”
Christopher Lawlor, MD
Associate Medical Director
Pediatric Specialists of Virginia
An eleven year old girl whose father had been battling cancer for quite some time participated actively in art therapy sessions provided by Tracy’s Kids in Northern Virginia. One afternoon as the little girl left the art room, she discreetly left behind a Post-it note. Her brief message—a mere nine words—says all that needs to be said about Tracy’s Kids.