Thursday, December 29, 2011

10 of 30: Volunteering Part 3 - Doing It For The Kids

Helping Children. THAT’S what it’s all about! I don’t know why it took me a while to figure this out. You ALWAYS win when you help kids! That’s why when my friend, W, asked me if I was available to help out, I was more than happy to oblige! I even brought my sisters who were visiting LA at the time!

The organization is called The Art of Elysium. They are an organization that encourages working actors, artists and musicians to voluntarily dedicate their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions.

Well, I am not a working actor, artist or musician… But I play music? And I’m getting pretty good at the Ukulele? Does that count?

W said it does! But this particular event we were helping out on needed artists.

I can’t draw!!!

W said it was okay. They just needed our help, helping kids decorate some bags with artsy paint and sticky things. Like arts and crafts class…

I was fine with that. :)
The event was an outdoor picnic and fundraising RUN benefiting kids diagnosed with Rett Syndrome.  

Rett syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system that leads to developmental reversals, especially in the areas of expressive language and hand use. Rett syndrome occurs almost exclusively in girls and may be misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy.

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Rett Syndrome till that day. All of the kids were in wheelchairs. They couldn’t talk, walk, or communicate properly. Most of them had their heads tilted to the side, and did jerky movements with their hands. I could tell why Rett could be misdiagnosed as autism. They moved the same way as autistic children.

What struck me about the whole thing was how loving their families were to these children. All of them had devoted sisters, mothers, fathers or grandparents… doting on them, by their side the whole time. I was touched, and I was instantly glad I was there helping them out.

When we arrived at the park, we arranged all of the art materials on a couple of tables. Got all the paint and stickers and colored glue sticks assembled properly for the kids to have easy access to them. They also had face paint available. I was intrigued.

W is a pretty good artist. I’ve seen some of her work hung in her apartment, and so the obvious choice for face painter was her. But they needed a few more people to help out.

I don’t draw – but I’m not horrible. I can copy really well, so all I needed to do was look up “face painting” online, and I was ready to go! All I need was a face to practice on.

As it turns out, W was thinking of the same thing.
So we practiced on each other! She drew a seahorse on my cheek, and I drew flowers and stars all over her face!

I had so much fun doing it, I started painting over my sisters faces too! 

Pretty soon, we had all these kids lining up to get their faces painted. We developed our own unique styles! W was the skilled artist who could draw animals, my sister drew cute Halloween creatures, and I turned each of my kid into a Sailor Moon character!

The children were adorable… And their families were so grateful to us for what we were doing. They genuinely thought the face painting was brilliant. Wow… who would have thought? We just fell into this craft. We didn’t even think we knew what we were doing at the start… Didn’t realize how happy we could make them!

Having fun with the paint!

W in action! I think she was drawing a lizard on the kids arm.
Apart from the face painting, the organization had us prepare a crafts table where the kids could make their own bags, and design it with paint and sticky thingamabobs. It was an awesome hot mess, and the kids and their families had a great time.

There was love all over. That was the best observation I had that day. I didn’t even notice the sickness. There was laughter, paint, face paint, food, smiles and balloons. I’m sure that when the families went back home, they had to face the realities of Ret Syndrome, just like they do everyday. I can’t pretend to know anything about it, but I’m sure it’s not easy.

But I’m glad, that at least for that afternoon, I got to experience and share a few hours of happiness with the kids and everyone there.

The Art of Elysium invited us to another program they have to help kids and teenagers who are physically disfigured to gain more confidence.

I can’t wait to help out. :)

My sisters and our painted faces!