The Heart and Soul of Arts in Medicine

Posted October 16, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Carol Herron assists Charles Tomayo II with a "fish" art projectDon’t be deceived by Carol Herron. She is the one you may hardly notice at the big event, the one setting up the chairs or ushering children to their seats or disappearing to find scissors or a microphone. At any arts-related event at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, Carol will be working the corners of the room, inviting children to move to the front row, cleaning up spilled glitter and glue, holding the elevator for the teenager in the wheelchair. She won’t be in the spotlight. In fact, you will barely know she’s there, standing in the back, calmly taking in her surroundings, quietly managing the hubbub.

Yet, Carol Herron deserves to be noticed. She may be petite, but she’s a powerhouse. She heads the Arts in Medicine Program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, which treats more childhood cancer and hematology patients than any other program in the U.S., with patients coming from 35 states and 26 countries around the world. Her job includes supervising over 90 volunteers and artists from nonprofit organizations across the city, overseeing Making a Mark, an annual event showcasing art from more than 350 kids being treating for cancer and blood disorders, and organizing hundreds of performances and hands-on workshops with patients every year.

With a Master’s degree in Recreation Therapy as well as experience in psychiatric health care and physical rehabilitation, Carol brings specialized knowledge to her daily work. She understands the theoretical value of the arts in medicine, but she also knows the practical power of the arts in a way that transcends numbers. Every day she facilitates experiences so that children can step beyond the confines of the typical hospital world and for a few minutes or hours be transformed by doing photography and painting, by watching puppeteers and magicians and operas, and by writing stories and poems and songs.

As the WITS writer-in-residence for many years at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, I feel honored to work with Carol Herron. I learn so much under her tutelage and guidance—how to listen to and respect these children who face cancer and blood disorders, how to believe deeply that the arts matter, and how to give fully and unconditionally. In life and death situations, you slowly learn that healing comes in many forms. It’s not always flashy; it’s often quiet and behind-the-scenes. Thank you, Carol Herron, for your work doing what truly matters, healing the world.

Marcia Chamberlain, Writers in the Schools (WITS)

* Thank you to The Periwinkle Foundation, which funds the WITS program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.

Orange and Black

Posted October 31, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

When I bite into an orange, the juice tickles my tongue.
Cockroaches crawl in the dark corners.

Pumpkins grow in big, beautiful pumpkin patches.
Bats fly in caves like the wind.

I see goldfish swimming in beautiful ponds.
The sky at night makes my eyes twinkle.

When I have a bite of tomato soup, it soothes my throat.
Licorice is my favorite candy of them all.

Tony the Tiger has the best cereal I’ve tasted.
Cows’ spots are the darkest shade of black I’ve ever seen.

Cheetos are the best chips I’ve eaten.
Car wheels speed down the long, black road.

When the sun sets, it is always the best time of the day.
I do the best tap dance with my tap shoes in my house.

Ronald McDonald’s hair is a very dark shade of red.
When I pick up dirt with my hands, it makes my fingers stick together.

Doxorubicin drips slowly into the IV to kill my cancer cells.
I have the best handwriting on a chalk board.

Carrots are my favorite type of vegetables.
I see black cats running to my house on Halloween night.

by Emily, 2nd grade
Texas Children’s Cancer Center

Making a Mark: Raising Awareness of Childhood Cancer

Posted September 8, 2011 & filed under Notebook.

September 2011 is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  To raise  awareness, Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers (TCCHC)  sponsors an extraordinary event called Making a Mark, the annual art  exhibit presented by The Periwinkle Foundation.

The Periwinkle Foundation, which reaches more than 4,000 children every year, provides programs for children, young people,  and their families who are challenged by cancer and other life-threatening  illnesses. It operates Camp Periwinkle, Camp YOLO, Family Camp, and the Long Term Survivor Program.  It also supports the Arts & Creative  Writing Program at the hospital, which culminates each year in Making a  Mark.  Writers in the Schools (WITS) is honored to partner with The  Periwinkle Foundation and offer creative writing workshops in the clinic every week.

Every September I look forward to Making A Mark, which features art and  creative writing by patients and their siblings. The poems, stories, and  visual art make a powerful statement about the healing that the arts can  bring to patients and their families affected by cancer and blood disorders.  In addition to the framed artwork, there are copies available of The Splendid Review, a publication of creative writing by patients and siblings who worked during the year with a WITS writer.

One aspect I particularly love is the collaborative piece that a professional guest artist, Periwinkle volunteers, and the children create together.  Come out and meet Guest Artist Ann Johnson and see the amazing Friendship Fence that she and the children have created. You are invited to Texas Children’s Cancer Center’s Making a Mark® art exhibition on Sunday, September 11, 2011, from 2-4 pm on the Auxiliary Bridge between Texas Children’s Hospital Clinical Care Center and West Tower. Complimentary valet parking will be provided at the Clinical Care Center and the reception is open to the public. 

A panel of judges selected blue ribbon pieces of art in three groups they felt most effectively represented Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Past exhibits have been shown in Japan, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, and numerous cities throughout the state of Texas.  Don’t miss your chance to see this year’s inspirational exhibit presented by The Periwinkle Foundation.