BY JAMES FARRELL
The children of St. Mary’s Children Hospital in Bayside will now have their arts-and-crafts materials brought to them in style.
The hospital recently debuted a new mobile arts-and-crafts cart that is filled with paint, clay, glue and other artistic materials provided by A.C. Moore.
The cart was a gift from the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation, an organization that works to empower hospitalized teenagers with social events and activities.
Gisele DiNatale, who founded the foundation with her husband, Mario, said that the cart was inspired by their own experiences. The DiNatales’ daughter, Alicia, spent 13 months in and out of children’s hospitals battling cancer before her death in 2002. Arts and crafts helped make the experience bearable for Alicia.
“Art is very therapeutic in many, many ways,” Gisele said. “This is Alicia’s art cart, and we want this rolling in the halls and we want this available for all children and teens to be able to express themselves and to muddle through this very, very difficult process.”
For Daria Swinton, the creative arts therapist at St. Mary’s, the new cart was a welcome addition—she currently shuttles her art materials around on a food cart between the inpatient and outpatient centers.
“Last week, one of the wheels almost fell off my cart,” she said. “This is like a dream. I don’t think [the new cart] is going to fall apart anytime soon.”
In her seven years at the hospital, Swinton has seen the positive effects of art therapy firsthand, noting that even skeptical children come to love it. One young girl, whom Swinton has worked with for five years, hated art when she first entered the hospital. Now, she seeks out Swinton to do crafts.
“These children who are nonverbal or they have congenital diseases and stuff, I like the fact that art therapy brings a sense of normalcy while in this environment,” she said. “With the outpatient kids…they take a great sense of pride in their accomplishments.
It’s just such a joy to see them. Whereas they might not be able to do some things—if they can’t use their hands, we use hand over hand and help them, and the ones that can speak can tell us what colors they want, what paint, what clay. So, it’s all in their control, and that’s so important.”
Dr. Edwin Simpser, the president and CEO of St. Mary’s, echoed Swinton’s praise of art therapy, suggesting it helps create a positive environment in which children can heal.
“Art therapy is an important component of the work that we do for our kids,” he said. “Part of the work that we do in a place like this where you’re sick all of the time, and dealing with nurses and doctors all the time, [is to provide] outlets, ways that you can express yourself, other than just complaining about what’s going on around you. To be able to express yourself through art is very powerful and very important for our kids and for part of their healing environment.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.