Redefining Retirement: Art Helps Heal

Redefining Retirement

After teaching art at Walt Disney Magnet School for more than 30 years, Anne Hollenbeck quickly sought out a new artistic outlet when she retired in 2010, and began volunteering at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Backpacks filled with art supplies provided by Art Helps HealWhile developing arts and crafts projects for the patients at Lurie Children’s, Anne noticed that only the younger children were interested in participating. Additionally, the generous donations the hospital received primarily consisted of toys, crayons, and games that weren’t exactly enticing to the older kids and teenagers there.

Inspired, Anne teamed up with fellow retired teacher Shirley Forpe to develop an art program for hospitalized teens who are long-term in-patients, and Art Helps Heal was born.

While waiting to receive their 501(3)c status, Anne surveyed several hospitalized teens to learn what they most needed and wanted. Many expressed interest in drawing, painting, design, and even fashion, but due to their lengthy hospital stay were cut off from taking these electives at their schools. With this information, Anne determined the mission of Art Helps Heal: to provide backpacks filled with art supplies and age-appropriate activity books to teenagers during their stay at the hospital.

In April 2016, Art Helps Heal was officially recognized by the State of Illinois and became a not-for-profit corporation. Anne and the whole Art Helps Heal staff have been working tirelessly on many projects, including (but definitely not limited to) launching their company website, collecting donations, purchasing art supplies and assembling backpacks, developing online art activities, creating an online gallery for the teens to display their work, partnering with the Museum of Modern Art to create programs, and creating an activity book on drawing graphic novels.

They were also awarded a grant from the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation that allowed them to not just launch their pilot program at Lurie Children’s, but also to expand their efforts to patients at Comer Children’s, La Rabida Children’s, Shriners, and Rush Hospitals.

Active on social media, Art Helps Heal conducts fundraisers on Facebook and everyone involved is infinitely grateful for the generous support from friends, family, and fellow teachers. As their online presence has expanded they’ve even seen an increase in interest from total strangers located near and far.

In the short year and a half since its creation, Art Helps Heal has seen tremendous growth and support, and they are continuously working to expand their efforts, finding new and creative ways to artistically inspire hospitalized teens all around the Chicago area.

To learn more about Art Helps Heal, please visit their website or Facebook page, and feel free to reach out to Anne or the rest of their staff.

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