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Between the Lines

“Sorry, I’m not creative.” My response to that could always be, “Understood! That makes two of us.” Instead, I try to be a bit more formal and use quotes like, “It’s the thought that counts.” Or what I usually do is tell a story from WAY back in the day when we only had one hospital and I personally hand-delivered all the cards. I used to have a story prepared for some of the kids who received some of the less-than-ideal cards. I would tell them that I worked at a company where some people drew pictures all day (creative/marketing department) and other people who did math problems (accounting/finance). I would provide more details about how their card came from a math problems person and at the end everyone would understand, and we’d all live happily ever after. There was one time I started that story and the little boy interrupted me and said, “I can tell he tried really hard,” and then rushed over to show his card to his family. With that in mind, I don’t have a problem with one of our key hashtags - #everycardcounts. It’s okay that our partners accept all types of cards from us then work to deliver them all from room to room. In fact, that was even referred to by a member of the Child Life team at Valleywise Health in one of the podcasts.

Even with that encouragement though, I’m sure there are some people who are still nervous about creating handmade cards. There are some people who simply want to purchase cards from stores and/or online and then write a short message on them. But one of our key messages is handmade cards, so obviously this wouldn’t work. Since people are continually pushing back that they’re not creative enough, I want to provide another perspective, another possibility. I’ll take you completely behind-the-scenes and provide you some brief background.

It has been stated before, but people always get confused. People often assume that Cardz for Kidz was sparked by my epilepsy/brain surgery, but it’s just a combination of my love for handmade artwork and volunteering with kids. Here’s a tour down memory lane – a.k.a the hallway of my condo/Cardz for Kidz’s global headquarters.

I showed it a bit during one of the Facebook Live videos, but here’s some of my frame and/or laminated artwork I have up in my house. Let’s start at the top left and describe them:

  • Sunset with the colorful, glitter lines. I received this picture during one of my shifts at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. I told a young girl that I loved sunsets and she made this beautiful one for me. As you can see, she knew my name started with I, and knew it was pronounced like the letters E K, so she wrote my name as IEK.

  • Sunset over the mountain & hands holding (black/white). These pictures were both drawn for me by one of my first favorite artists, Nina M. When she gave me the hands picture, I was amazed. Later we were talking and I told her about my love for sunsets and she drew the sunset over a mountain. Nina is currently working with her sister, Sonya – coming soon, to make custom artwork for some of their clients.

  • Red flowers (left), 3 small - colorful sunsets with tree (far right). Were you able to find those? It starts with the flowers on the left side. I received those from Danielle and that made me realize she was artistic, so then I began to ask her for some sunsets. Then over the years I got the 3 colorful sunsets on the left side. She probably thought she was set after the first, but I kept pushing for more! 😊

  • Large sunset. Yeah, it’s hard to explain these since there are so many sunsets, but that’s been my thing. I got this one from the art therapist at Mott Children’s Hospital during my brain surgery. I volunteered at the hospital leading up to the surgery and talked to the team and her about my upcoming procedure and how I’d be done for the summer. We discussed my passion for sunsets, so when the Child Life team came over from the pediatric hospital to visit me in the adult hospital, the art therapist brought me this pic.

  • Colorful man. This is a pic I received from the professional behind Oleari Designs. What’s exciting is that she was the artist who attended the VERY first Cards for Kids – yes, intentionally spelled our name wrong since back in 2010 we weren’t certified and still spelled our name like that – and helped the young adults and kids increase their creativity for the cards they were making for patients at Children’s Memorial/Lurie Children’s Hospital.

  • Me smiling with a bear. You know what’s weird? Here’s the real picture.

For background, I always loved handmade artwork and harassed people for it. In college I harassed my classmate, Heather, and she found a picture of me on Facebook and replaced my friend with a bear. Full circle. The hat – currently living close to the United Center, home of the Bulls. A Bear – perfect pick, Cuz is the only stuffed animal that I received during my surgery that is still my roommate. The friend in the picture is Megan, who is good friends with Nina M – the artists who made some of the other artwork.

  • Sunset with palm tree. I received this card from The Schuyler. She’s been making artwork for me dating back to high school. This was a piece she drew in college using

some of our left-over markers and highlighters. It definitely made the wall of fame in that apartment. She’s been creative as long as I’ve known her – runs in the family.

  • Detailed small artwork – 2. I can’t think of a better way to describe these detailed pieces of abstract artwork from Sonya, Nina’s sister. She learned of my obsession, passion for handmade artwork, so she agreed to make me some pieces and made some fun messages, too.

  • Detailed African lands with animals. This is a colorful picture I received from our #1 behind-the-scenes volunteer, Sherry. It’s quite a detailed picture. And for added context, she used to say the first line in this blog, “I’m not creative.”

Being a data guy, I wanted to get other people’s perspective on which piece of artwork was their favorite. As you can see by stories above, they all have a special meaning to me personally ranging from crushes on entire families to my time as a patient. I opened it up and asked everyone to pick which one of those pics they liked the most and as you can see in this poll they selected Sherry’s animal artwork.

Thanks to her 300+ hours of volunteering, she’s grown a bit. Now she no longer strictly rants and raves about not being creative and does have two or three go-to cards she makes, but she’s not renowned like Heather who can make precise artwork (example below).

Do you want to know how Sherry did her artwork? She colors – well, paints to be precise. Paint by numbers. She had a canvas and there are outlines that provide details on what color to paint where. She knew my preference for sunsets and spent a lot of time making the detailed picture. People reviewing it picked it as their favorite!

Thankfully, we have some of our artists who have followed what Sherry does for her artwork with friends in what they’re doing for the handmade cards they’re donating. Instead of sending plain pieces of papers and telling the kids to color, or simply writing a few lines, they’re coloring in DETAILED pictures so the patients and families receiving the artwork will know someone spent time creating their cards as well. Here are some examples of the cards we received from Carla Sue and Sue Neal.

The main thing is that if you follow the path of Carla Sue Travels and Crew and diversify your pictures you should be all set. There are some people who think of the idea of drawing in a picture and strictly print out the same image hundreds of times then send that to us. Since some of our partners allow most of the kids to select their own cards, it’s important that each child can get a unique card.

We understand there are some people who may still think like some of the original artists and say, “I’m not creative,” if we reach out about making handmade cards. Our only request is that you think BETWEEN THE LINES and consider sending unique cards with detailed colored images. Based on some unbiased judges, that artwork is loved by all involved.

To see more pictures and stories, please check out our Facebook page; follow us on Twitter and Instagram; visit our LinkedIn and Great Nonprofit pages! Also, check out some of our videos on YouTube!


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