Art Brings Hope to
Children with Cancer
Innovative art therapy programs at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Alex’s Place put smiles on the faces of young patients
by Cathy Alton
When Marta Blanco lost her 13-year-old daughter, Sofia, to heart failure that was a side effect of cancer treatment, she knew she wanted to do something to help other kids and their families. So she started Sofia’s Hope, a foundation dedicated to fighting childhood cancer. Today, Blanco’s generous spirit is bringing unique experiences to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Alex’s Place, where hundreds of children are treated for cancer and blood diseases.
Thanks to Blanco’s philanthropy, young patients have enjoyed field trips to the zoo and to horse camps that take siblings along for the ride. Now they are also benefiting from two inspiring art programs.
Clay therapy, a modeling and animation experience, lets them create fun, finished pieces that they can take home to enjoy. Led by the experts from Clay World, a Miami Beach based program, they create colorful artworks ranging from Harry Potter characters to animal sculptures.
Best of all, they get to feel in control of their creations. Leslie Hutchins, M.S., a child life specialist at Alex’s Place, sees what a difference that makes.
“These kids don’t have control over their treatment, but when they’re here they feel like they have control of something,” Hutchins said. “It makes the visit less stressful for them and their parents.”
Gifts from Sofia’s Hope are also funding the Healing Art Program at Alex’s Place. The art therapy sessions give these seriously ill children the chance to create art that expresses whatever emotions they are feeling, whether it’s fear, anxiety or hope. They create memory books, collages and more — all great ways to get their feelings out.
“These kids spend so much time waiting to be seen, or getting infusions, and there’s not a lot to do,” Blanco said. “This is two hours of fun, and they just love it. Just to see a smile on a child’s face makes it all worthwhile.”