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Artistic Expression & Creative Communities

Steve Barr

“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.”

When a dear friend’s young son was diagnosed with Leukemia, professional cartoonist Steve Barr knew he wanted to help. His friend suggested that he spend some time with the patients at the pediatric hospital, and perhaps even teach a few of them to draw. From that very first visit, Steve knew he was onto something powerful, and each subsequent visit reaffirmed this.

Steve received his first grant from The Pollination Project, which helped him purchase art supplies and pay for travel expenses to various children’s hospitals.

Today, that seed of an idea has blossomed into “Drawn to Help,” a network of cartoonists and illustrators who volunteer to augment child life and art therapy programs for sick children.

“Drawn to Help” has received national attention, including from the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, whose Seacrest Studios broadcasts interactive “Drawn to Help” lessons throughout a handful of pedatric units.

Laura Lavigne

“What are you grateful for today?”

Laura Lavigne joined The Pollination Project family when her “Happiness Sprinkling Project” was an early recipient of seed funding. The project was simple and powerful: for one hour, a group of people wearing bright yellow shirts held signs with messages such as It’s Going to be Okay, Tell Them You Love Them, Live Your Dream, and Sure You Can. These signs crisscrossed the world, with a powerful impact on both participants and onlookers. Volunteer sign-holders experienced “pure joy,” “magic,” and tears of bliss; one man, who was 88, rated it as one of the top 100 most memorable days of his life.

More recently, Laura and a group of friends launched “The Big Gratitude Project” with the support of The Pollination Project. Working with 19 Gratitude Ambassadors in 10 states, the group is sending cheery yellow locker boxes that ask people “What are you grateful for today?” People are encouraged to slip a note in the box, which serves as a visual reminder to think from a lens of gratitude.

“My hope is that there will be a box in every prison, school, and hospital,” she says. “Human nature is wired to tap into gratitude. This power just needs to be activated!”

Mwaka Benson

“When people thought of Northern Uganda, they only thought of violence and dependence. We want to give the youth of our country the tools- a microphone, a pen, a stage, a can of spray paint – to rewrite the narrative and reclaim their power.”

Mwaka Benson, “Benny”, grew up in Northern Uganda against a backdrop of civil war. Through it all and amid the devastation that came after, Benny found solace in music.

He founded “Northern Uganda Hip Hop Culture” to give that same artistic outlet to the thousands of other young people fighting through the trauma of war. They received early funding from The Pollination Project to grow this concept, which now organizes breakdancing, graffiti sessions, hip hop performances, community theater forums, and other opportunities for positive self-expression.

They do this even in places that are often hard to reach, such as prisons and orphanages, believing that every person is capable of achieving their dreams.

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