by Steve Barr, Author/Illustrator and Founder of Drawn To Help
Children’s books provide a wonderful opportunity to escape from reality and get lost in a world of make-believe.
But did you know they can also help children heal?
It’s a process known as “pleasant distraction”. Creative activities like art and music have been shown to reduce stress in young patients and play a powerful role in their healing process.
Drawn To Help, a small (but growing!) nonprofit takes professional cartoonists and children’s book illustrators to visit pediatric patients in hospitals. We also serve camps for kids with a wide array of serious medical challenges.
Every child Drawn To Help sees is given free drawing lessons and a packet of art supplies. They also get free books they can keep, and that’s where the children’s book community has really stepped up to help.
Most of the books that are donated to us go directly to the children. But sometimes they’re given to hospital staff members who put them on library carts and take them from room to room, so even more kids can enjoy them.
These books that were given to us by Kelly Light and Tara Lazar were shared with patients at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville and helped bring smiles to lots of little faces!
Illustrator Steve Gray sent us a package of autographed books with original sketches inside the cover, and the children who received them went absolutely crazy over the fact that someone they had never met in person was thinking of them and wishing them well.
Dav Pilkey and his wife have donated boxes and boxes of “Captain Underpants” and “Dog Man” books that are signed as well, and those have touched the hearts of little patients deeply.
You can watch their faces literally light up when they receive these gifts.
Getting an autographed book from an author or illustrator they admire can bring such joy to children receiving medical treatment. This young patient copied drawings of Dog Man from one of Dav Pilkey’s books to deflect his attention from his chemotherapy treatment, and then he read the entire book from cover to cover.
Writers and illustrators have donated their time to work directly with the children. Blythe Russo joined our volunteers in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to share her love of art and her drawing by being part of a regular program we host via Seacrest Studios. Children who can’t attend in person can watch the shows on the televisions in their rooms and call in to participate.
Original art has been donated to help with fundraising. And when we’ve encountered kids who are seriously interested in growing up to become writers and illustrators, artists and authors have sent them helpful tips and information to encourage them to chase their dreams.
Nancy Herndon-Robinson sent an incredible amount of material to young Molly, explaining her processes and the preliminary work she does when she’s creating her work.
And now, in a time when Covid-19 makes it impossible to safely visit the children in person, Drawn To Help is expanding our digital outreach. We’re not only doing visits with young patients via Skype and similar programs, we’re also preparing a vast digital art activity library for them.
It will be given to caregivers on flash drives, and can be worn around the neck on a lanyard for easy access. And once again, people in the children’s publishing world have leapt to the rescue. They’ve given us permission to share a wide array of their coloring pages, mazes and other activities with the kids we serve.
Gifts of signed books continue to come in, and that’s great because we want to be fully stocked and “ready to roll” when we can safely return to the hospitals in person. But we can always use more, so feel free to contact us if you’d like to donate some and see them go to wonderful new homes.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to be a part of what Drawn To Help is doing. You can shoot us a note at [email protected] and ask any questions you might have.
And perhaps you’ll help us not only lift the spirits of children who need us right now, but also inspire and encourage part of the next generation of children’s book writers and illustrators.
Together, we can make amazing things happen!
Drawn To Help is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Drawn To Help are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
If you’d like to learn more about what Drawn To Help does, these links will help you find more information about us.
Visit the Drawn to Help website: drawntohelp.com. If you’d like to find out how you can get involved, please feel free to send us an email through our website.
Join Drawn to Help on Social Media Facebook Page: facebook.com/DrawnToHelp/