Art with a Heart

In the lives of young patients at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center of Children’s Hospital, art signifies a powerful message of hope, love and everlasting support. Art with a Heart is an inspirational fundraiser event led yearly by Tri-Delta alumnae, benefiting the non-profit Oklahoma Children’s Cancer Association (OCCA). The fundraiser provides patients and families with financial aid for treatment costs and other expenses, in addition to student scholarships, supplies and holiday activities.

The artists, ranging from ages 4 to 21, are the stars of the spectacular evening extravaganza. Arriving like celebrities in limousines, the artists embrace their grand entrance with camera-ready smiles while walking the red carpet. It is their night to shine! With kind hearts that reflect their courageous personalities, they each stand proud to donate their extraordinary creations to be sold through a silent auction.

TJ Hutchings, a 21-year old marketing student at OU, has been involved in the art show for three years. Diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2004, his treatment consisted of 42 weeks of chemotherapy and eight weeks of radiation. “The art show gives me a chance to work with an artist and the other patients to do something bigger than myself,” he said.

On raising $24,000 at last year’s event, Hutchings said, “I felt amazed and shocked that a few kids could raise that much in a single night. I can only expect that this year will be better than last year.” One of Hutchings’ cherished memories of the art show was of his friend, David Johnson. Last year, Hutchings, Johnson and other patients collaborated on a large canvas piece, yet Johnson passed away before the show took place. “I cried and cried, but I knew that I had a really good last memory of David.”

Kay Tangner, who has spent nearly 14 years serving as a volunteer, said, “I love children and I love to serve. I always felt that God had some kind of purpose for me and volunteering was my mission.” Her life transformed when she began working with cancer patients at Children’s Hospital. “I learn life lessons from them every day and it’s a heartfelt gratitude, privilege and honor to walk along with the families,” she said.

On art days, local artists help the kids add a personalized touch to their projects. From watercolor, abstract, landscape and acrylic paintings to sculptures, weavings, ceramics and jewelry, the children are the artistic geniuses behind their individual work.

“These children generate the most amazing art,” said Cindy Hazelwood, the fundraiser’s original co-founder. “It’s a festive gala with the children as guests of honor – it’s a sight to behold.”

The lives of the volunteers and leaders have also been changed, especially for this year’s fundraiser co-chairs, Precia Barrett and Melanie Russell.

“The show has impacted me as a volunteer, knowing that I want to do more for our community. Personally, it taught me to not sweat the small stuff,” said Barrett.

“The kids and the volunteers are great,” said Russell. “It really touches your heart when you see these eye catching pictures. My goal is to educate people and get others involved.”

This year’s event will again feature “Fletcher’s Corner,” in memory of Fletcher Vines – a brave 11 year old whose battle with cancer ended in 2006. Reproductions of Fletcher’s work will be available for sale at the end of the auction.

Patrick Kanaly of Image Arts, who was inspired by Fletcher Vines, has played an active role in the art show for four years. “We scan and create reproductions of the original paintings on products such as mugs, mouse pads, tiles, canvas and fine art prints. The kids get to experience the whole side of the art process – they create it, show it and sell it.”

Twelve-year-old David Haywood was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2006. For David, the art show has been a positive experience. “We go to the clinic a couple times a month and some of the football players come to help,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s my second time in the art show and I’m looking forward to it.”

David’s mother, Denae Hooks said, “Last year was the first year we went and it was amazing that the artists were able to come out and help them create. The show was set up elegantly and it made the kids feel special.”

Barrett encourages the community to attend the art show, to make purchases, show support, and volunteer to help patients in need. “I think the overall message of the art show is community and hope,” she said. “The Tri-Delta alumnae group hopes we can raise more money every year.”

The 6th annual benefit will be held on February 29th from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. at the Oklahoma History Center. For more information, visit

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