The first time I volunteered at the Kids & Art workshop at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital I was nervous. I wondered if I could focus on the kids and creating rather than the profoundly sad reason these children and their families were visiting the hospital in the first place.
The project was to create a name flag. The suggestion was to cover a piece of cardstock with things that represented you: favorite animal, number, food, color, activity. One way that the volunteers and artists bring kids to the table is to start making the project themselves. Kids are curious; they come to the table to see what you are doing.
At UCSF we set up two tables: one just off the elevator and one next to the door to the infusion space. We are also able to bring projects into the infusion area. I sat at the table near infusion and started making my flag. A girl and her parents came out from an appointment. She paused at our table and I asked if she wanted to make a name flag. She nodded and took a seat and began selecting her supplies. Her mom said something to her dad and continued out of the waiting area. Her dad sat in a chair near our table. The girl bent over her flag and narrated her work. She was 8 years old and that was her favorite number. She liked dogs. She had a dog who liked her better than anyone else in her house. He slept on her bed. She told me her favorite color was rainbow. While we worked her father chatted anxiously, about the weather and the long drive they had taken that morning to get to the hospital and the traffic. As he watched his daughter work his voice slowed, seemed to become less anxious. His phone buzzed. He told his daughter her mother was ready to go. Almost done was his daughter’s response. Her dad told her they would go for ice cream. That’s my favorite food, she said, and began drawing a cone on her flag. Mint chocolate chip was her favorite flavor. She finished her flag and attached it to a pipe cleaner and left the waiting room with her dad, name flag flying, headed for ice cream.
The work that Kids & Art does changes the hospital experience for children and their families. We know that stress is detrimental to health. We know that hospitals are very stressful places. We also know that creating art reduces stress. The little girl I met that first day chose to stay and make art, even delaying ice cream. Her father got to watch his daughter be a kid.
I joined the board of Kids & Art to help support and expand the important work being done. I hope that you will join me in that support in any way you can.
Caitlin Brown, Board Member