Meet the Project: Drawn To Help
From time to time, we feature one of our fiscally sponsored projects who have been successful at using our program to advance their art/cause/career. Today, we’re featuring Drawn To Help.
What is Drawn to Help?
Drawn To Help takes the joy and healing power of cartoons to children in hospitals. We’re an all-volunteer organization that brings professional cartoonists to treatment facilities in seven states now, with more expansion on the horizon. We do group activities where we teach the kids how to draw their own cartoons and conduct individualized bedside visits. Each child Drawn To Help serves gets a free packet of nontoxic, latex-free art supplies that they get to keep. That way they can continue to experience the powerful impact of creative activities long after our volunteers have gone home.
What is the inspiration behind the formation of this project?
A few years ago, a dear friend’s son was diagnosed with Leukemia. She saw the beneficial and uplifting influence art activities could have on young patients firsthand, and suggested that I might want to visit hospitals from time to time and draw cartoons with the children there. So this really started out as an individual effort, something I thought I would just do occasionally. But once I saw the results right in front of my eyes, I knew I had to grow this into something larger and long-lasting. The creation of art has been shown to greatly reduce stress and pain. And as I watched that happen, these visits became all I wanted to do. And as I shared my experiences on social media, other top people in the cartooning and animation world began asking how they could get involved.
You’ve cultivated volunteers along the way. How have you been able to encourage people to get involved in different ways?
Many of our volunteers have reached out to us once they’ve learned about what we are doing. For instance, when I was working with a young man who was a multiple transplant recipient (and also an aspiring cartoonist) I reached out to others in the field, asking them to send him uplifting notes and autographed pieces of their work. The response was overwhelming, and many of the cartoonists who took part in that effort asked how they could begin doing hospital visits in their own areas. They, in turn, began recruiting other volunteers to visit hospitals with them.
Publishers began giving us free books that we could share with the children. A local art supply store lets us purchase the art supplies in bulk at a greatly reduced price, so we can stretch every dollar we receive as far as possible. And, whenever a new treatment facility reaches out to us asking if we can visit, I will reach out to members of the art community in that area and ask them to join us. What I have witnessed, again and again, is that once an artist does these visits, they want to do more. And they help us spread awareness of what we’re doing through word of mouth with their friends and through social media.
Tell us about yourself as an artist.
I’m a professional cartoonist. I sold my first cartoon to a magazine when I was in 7th grade, and one to a newspaper feature that same year. I’ve been at it ever since. I’ve also written and illustrated a total of 13 books that teach young people how to draw their own cartoon characters, using basic lines and shapes. And I once did a nationally syndicated comic strip called “Snapdragon”. But much of my work has now fallen by the wayside, as Drawn To Help has become my top priority. And my favorite thing I’ve ever done.
You recently completed a successful crowdfunding campaign, what advice do you have for others looking to fundraise using the crowdfunding strategy?
Crowdfunding is a wonderful way to spread the word about what you are doing, and it enables others who care deeply about the same things as you do to get involved by supporting your work.
When one of our anonymous donors offered to extend a “Matching Fund Challenge”, Fractured Atlas set up a page where we could do that. That donor promised to match each dollar we raised within a given time period with two dollars of their own. The results were wonderful. We met the challenge two weeks earlier than the deadline, and the funds that came in came in really handy as Drawn To Help continued to grow.
I’d highly recommend crowdfunding not only as a way to raise financial backing, but also as a method to reach others with a message about what you are doing. I’d also highly recommend Fractured Atlas if you are forming an art program that needs support but aren’t in a place where you can form your own nonprofit organization. The “behind the scenes” encouragement and motivation you’ll receive is a great help.
How do you pick the hospitals you visit and how has their response been to your work?
When I began doing this work as an individual, I reached out to several hospitals and asked if they’d like me to visit. After the first one, news of the fun the kids had spread pretty rapidly and other locations began contacting me to see if I could visit the children they serve.
As more comic book artists, comic strip creators, and animators began coming on board, they began approaching hospitals in their own areas and inquiring about visits. Most of those facilities were thrilled to offer our services to their young patients.
Their response to Drawn To Help has been overwhelmingly positive. The nurses, doctors and child life specialists have seen the huge impact we have. They’ve witnessed children stop crying during painful treatments and begin to giggle when they get to draw at the same time.
To quote Mamie Shepherd, the program director at Seacrest Studios in Nashville, “Their visits change the very atmosphere here at the studio and hospital!” That was part of a note she sent us, thanking us for bringing Tom Bancroft (a former Disney animator) and Guy Gilchrist (who does the Nancy comic strip and has worked on such hits as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Muppets) to draw with the children they serve.
Is there anything you want people who are being introduced to you to know?
I love having been given the opportunity to form Drawn To Help and watch it touch the lives of young patients deeply, and in so many positive ways.
It’s also touched me deeply and continuing to expand its outreach has become the driving goal in my life. But we cannot do it alone. We need all of the help and support we can possibly get. If you’d like to be a part of something truly unique, caring, and compassionate, we would welcome your assistance. We’re always looking for new volunteers, and financial support is of utmost importance to our success. We’d love to hear from you at: email@example.com. Or, you can message us through our Facebook page.