Are you amazed when someone actually does something to help others? I mean, how many times do you wish you could help the world but you go back to your routine and forget about it? Steve Barr lost several people he knew to cancer, watching as they struggled, and wished he could help – and actually did something that changed his life and the lives of many children who have come in contact with him.
Liz, from The Smile Project once asked Steve: give me a “Happiness is!” and Steve said: “Happiness is leaving a six-year-old pediatric patient’s room and hearing her say, “Thanks for drawing with me and giving me free art supplies, SANTA!” That’s right. Doesn’t Steve look a little bit like Santa?
Steve, a professional cartoonist, knew that art and laughter heal. Kids love cartoons. So drawing funny pictures just seems like a very natural way to give children an additional weapon in their battle against invasive medical conditions. Each child also gets a free packet of nontoxic, latex-free art supplies so they can continue drawing after he goes home.
“When I see the incredible courage these young patients show in the face of such extreme adversity in their lives, every challenge in my own life seems to shrink in comparison.”
How did Steve get “Drawn to Help,” a children’s art therapy project going? He spent countless hours, days, and weeks researching the internet on how art heals, how art diminishes pain. He took a course on pediatric art therapy and other art therapy courses. He also had to take some shots required by hospitals in order to help the children.
Peel Productions, Impact Books (the publishers of his art instruction books) believed in his dream and donated huge numbers of his books to the cause. Other authors began contributing some of their books. Suddenly his project took off, hospitals were requesting his assistance, and with that the expenses grew. He needed to get funds. He couldn’t afford to give up hope for these children! He realized he needed to ask for monetary help but that was something he did not know how to do.
The Pollination Project (TPP) gave Steve his first grant and the confidence he needed to apply for more grants. His second grant came from the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust, another amazing organization that believed in him. Steve went on to say: “What TPP also offers is behind the scenes support and encouragement that is worth more than money. They truly care about the success of each of their grantees, and they feel like family to me now”.
Ari Nessel, TPP founder, and Steve have something in common. They both feel very strong about giving all the money they raise to those they are helping. Steve shared that he would drive up to six hours a day to get to a hospital needing him, leaving before sunrise, so that he didn’t have to pay for a motel. He is also known for camping out at times and then cleaning up at friends’ houses before going to visit children at hospitals.
Something magical has started to happen and it is getting very contagious. Fellow professional cartoonists from all over the USA have gotten the “Steve’s Loving Bug” he caught from visiting children in hospitals who are facing physical and mental struggles that many of us cannot even begin to imagine.
Steve’s goal now is to help these artists financially and guide them on how to bring a little piece of hope, a little less pain, to those children who are already busy fighting battles much bigger than them. He wants to build an organization that will help others learn about gaining access to hospitals, what is required of them and providing free art supplies for them to give away.
Speaking with Steve touched a nerve inside. He truly admires and is inspired by every young patient he meets. “Their courage in the face of truly daunting medical challenges is something that is so inspirational it is hard to describe. Their smiles, and the happiness on their parents’ faces during the visits motivates me to keep going and do the programs as often as possible.”
I hope this little story was contagious enough that you caught “Steve’s Loving Bug!” Steve needs to raise funds to keep up with the demand hospitals are now placing on him. He doesn’t want to turn them down and he wants to support other artists, who like himself, want to help children heal through art. Publishers can donate art instruction and activity books to build libraries for the kids.
What if that child in the hospital is someone you love?
I bet you would appreciate a Steve Barr by your side!
You can also donate to support his work via his nonprofit fiscal sponsor, Fractured Atlas.