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One Good Thing: Art program for children in hospice

All children are natural artists. Even those near then end of their lives.

PENTWATER, Mich. — "Every child is an artist." Pablo Picasso said that. And he knew a thing or two about the subject. But you don't have to be a Picasso to see and experience the life that art can bring out a child. No matter where they're at in life.

Traci Reitsma says, "There is a beauty in seeing the joy in your child's eye that creates art on paper."

Daria Reitsma's artistic joy shows mostly through sketches and writing. 

"That's a lasting, tangible memory for us," says Traci.

Daria was a boisterous child with a love for the outdoors and being active. But at 13, Dari could no longer just be a child. She had also become a cancer patient.

Traci says "She had anaplasticastrocytoma."

Dari would eventually go into hospice care. But, even as a child enters the final stages of life, that life is still that of a child. And with life still yet to live, Michigan Hospice and Arbor Hospice now provide the The Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art Program. The million dollar venture was inspired by two clay owls created by the children of Lisa and Chris Van Allsburg. It is now self-sustaining.

Sheila Schindler with Hospice of Michigan says, "So what this program does is, it offers a chance for families to have fun and get messy."

Messy. Something at which every child is a natural prodigy. 

"It's joyful to watch," says retired art teacher Anne Krenselewski. Anne volunteers her time to meet virtually one-on-one with a child and - if they choose - their family.

"I try to leave it open. Like, what do you want to do?"

With the provide kits, it gives kids a chance to just be kids. 

Traci says of the program, "We got to experience, full throttle, Daria again."

Even if it's just for a little while.

"When you're on that cancer journey, it's so easy to get bogged down in all the clinical and all the medical and all the day to day crud that you 've gotta do. And to be able to take a step back from that and just enjoy and have fun and create is just a wonderful thing."

One Good Thing to the Van Allsburg's for kickstarting this pediatric art project, and to Hospice of Michigan and Arbor Hospice for implementing it. If you want to know more, go here.

If you have a One Good Thing you'd like to submit - someone or something that makes West Michigan a good place to live - email me with your photos and-or video at OneGoodThing@13OnYourside.com.

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