On February 23rd I helped install my first mural at Brookdale University Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. Being there in person and seeing, first hand the change in the environment a mural can make really impacted me...
As an artist for Splashes, intellectually, I knew I was doing a good thing painting inspiring and fun scenes to lift the spirits of those who are in difficult situations, but being there in person to see how the Splashes transform a physical space put me in awe and made me feel so much more humble and grateful to be able to contribute.
After the installation, we took a tour of other beautiful and uplifting Splashes covering the Pediatrics hallways and rooms. It made me think - although all the positive feedback of my work makes me feel good, it doesn’t compare to how I feel knowing that the work that the Splashes Team collectively does will keep on giving.
February 23rd was also my late husband’s birthday. Four years ago this month, he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and passed away 6 weeks later. I remember many doctor and hospital visits. Art on the walls offered a chance to transport away from the current location and situation, if only for a little while. My husband was my biggest cheerleader (and critic), and he'd be happy to know what I’m doing with my artwork.
Below is the Splash Team (starting from the right), Angelica, the Child Life Director from Brookdale Hospital; Sandy (the author) and a Splashes of Hope artist; Liz Splashes of Hope Volunteer Manager; Larissa , the Child Life Director from Brookdale Hospital for over eight years, and Sarah, Splashes of Hope Executive Director
Every time I am involved in the Splash process, it is different from my previous experience. Different, but even more wonderful! With every Splash, I learn to look for reactions, be it feedback from the recipients, or impressions from my fellow artists. My latest Splash had it all.
Our first project was a Painting for A Purpose event, held in conjunction with the American Bankers Association conference in Orlando. The completed murals from the event would be gifted to two Ronald McDonald Houses in St. Petersburg. Since none of the members of our team had ever been involved in this type of event, we had no preconceived expectations. But, under the watchful eye of our team leader Jimmy Knapp, we were ready! When the first group of conference attendees arrived, we encouraged them to get involved and get painting. At the start, people weren’t sure if they had the courage or the talent. But, by the end of our time there, attendees of all ages were seeking us out, both excited and proud that their work would be showcased at a Ronald McDonald house for the kids and their families to enjoy.
After the conference, we left for a local Airbnb, ready to spend a few days tweaking the murals for the Ronald McDonald Houses, painting four ceiling tiles and three murals for Cone Health in North Carolina. With renewed energy and a new Splash participant, we set to work. In a few days, we completed the murals, and varnished them to get them set for their new homes. Delivering the murals to the Ronald McDonald Houses in St. Petersburg was first, and what a joy to find out the murals exceeded their expectations!
Involvement with an enthusiastic team is gratifying, but working with a Splashes of Hope team is the best! Congratulations to our Splash team members: Donna and Bill Kreutz, Russ and Catherine Brown, Laura and Leah Pertot, and our newest member, Lou Amato.
Background of the project: this way-finding project was for the New Jersey VA Lyon's 'Wunnel' where Splashes of Hope depicted various scenes of New Jersey . The purpose is for veterans with dementia to determine where they are in this .5 mile tunnel, going to various programs throughout the VA. The story below is from Kim's perspective as one of the main artists on this project...
It was my first time designing layouts in the creative process for the VA Lyon’s campus project and having involvement with the entire 'Splash process'. Together with Splashes of Hope’s studio manager Miguel, my personal mission was to convey the spirit of HOPE in the work and contribute something special to this amazing project. I was very blessed to have the support of such a fabulous artist, helping me along and working every step of the way with me. He taught me so much and I am super grateful for that!
While researching the reference for all the beautiful places and landscapes in New Jersey, I found places I never even knew existed. Right from the start, it was really fun and I so want to visit all of them!!! From the Cherry blossoms in Brook Branch park, the sunflower farm in Sussex County, the seashores of Cape May, the views of NYC skyline from Liberty Park, to the castle in Fort Lee and the secret gardens---- there was so much eye candy with which to work. This made it easy to be invested early into the process of bringing this project to life in a Splashy style! My goal was to showcase the Splash signature trademark of painting into my efforts. All the artwork I see at Splashes of Hope is always warm, and hopeful, inviting viewers to visit places through their eyes and into their hearts.
On the day of the murals’ installation, there were so many smiles on the people we met. Wayfinders, placed next to the murals, not only provided a description of each of the places in New Jersey, but also a bit of their history. This was a personal touch that I felt really brought it all home to the viewers. I was so happy and proud to share this first installation experience with my dad Buzzy, who is a vet. This is a memory I will always cherish.
I loved being a part of this journey. It’s such a privilege to be part of the Splashes of hope legacy, to be on the team and feel a part of a big family of artists.
I have thought often about the people who would be invited into these created landscapes, places they knew, and have had fond memories of throughout their lifetime. My hope is that it will bring them all joy, peace, and comfort, gifted in a very special way with love and respect from our studio. And I pray that our Splash will give them the HOPE they so deserve.
I recently experienced my first mural installation. I happened to be at the castle and Sarah was going to the installation for Commack Physical Therapy so I tagged along. I had been part of painting events, and I had gone up to the studio to see works in progress and finished pieces, but I had never been to a facility before. It was so moving to see how happy the people were to see us. Once we installed the painting, the transformation was amazing. The entire place took on a splash of color.
There was a video of the children's reaction. You could see that they felt the mural belonged to them as they associated themselves with the characters. I am so happy to be part of the Splash Team. Everything they do comes from the heart and the love can be felt by all. Everyone chips in and helps out to get each job done. Splashes of Hope is an organization truly dedicated to its mission of bringing happiness and brightening up people's lives.
Here's what the President has to say about the experience at ABA!
I received the privilege of being able to participate at the ABA conference in Austin Texas. Allpoint Services generously sponsored 3 murals for the San Antonio Children's Hospital. I was completely blown away on so many levels. Starting with setup. Sarah and Miguel have really mastered what it takes to organize an event like this and as a Board Member, it is easy to take for granted the things that happen on a daily basis. Just to unload the van, finding the service elevators and setting up is a physically laborious job but they did it with ease and grace. The murals looked incredible and we were ready for three days of networking with Marketing professionals of Banking institutions.
Although I have been in sales and the service industry for many years, I still get a little nervous when chatting people up on a new idea. However, Splashes has made scripts readily available so that the conversations were seamless. Comparatively speaking, this conversation is so much easier because it isn't about pitching a product. It is an easy and wonderful conversation to have with others that leaves them engaged and inspired.
While allowing attendees to be hands on, they lower their guards, engage in powerful conversations and remind us all of why we do what we do. That is to volunteer selflessly to be able to make a difference in someone's life. The stories that were shared with me by some of the attendees are unforgettable and truly the reason that our mission remains what it is.
We were able to collect information for Executives who also want their employees to be able to make a difference and add a splash of color to one of more than 100 facilities that are currently on our waiting list. These people undoubtedly have been affected by their stories, and our mission.
I have always been grateful for the good work that Splashes and its volunteers take part in. After this mission, I am even more in awe of the organization and want to extend a heartfelt thanks to all of its members, as well as the Board. It is only with us collectively that we can achieve our objectives and paint the world a better place. I encourage everyone to take part in one of our amazing missions. It is sure to have a profound impact on you and your work.
This is a story of how an idea, a suggestion I made, to have a colorful painted mural to honor a young girls’ life helps two families heal and close the circle on one incredible story of two acts of kindness.
My friend Jill McGovern and I have known each other for over 25 years. We met through our husbands who were friends from college, at the University at Albany. Back then, we would have never imagined we would marry these men, have children and remain close family friends. She’s one of those friends who when they say I have a friend in need, whose had something tragic happen to their family, and I am raising money... that you automatically just say Yes to. You know it must important, for her to send out an email to a small but close group of friends and family.
Jill explained, that we really don’t know this friend, but that he lives in California and he has lost his daughter, a freshman in college in a senseless shooting. She mentions that they are a wonderful family who helped her in her time of need. And that's all we need to know. We all start donating and talks of money possibly going to a tree and a plaque are mentioned. Then, Jill lets us know that she is looking for how else to use the now generous donations that are coming in. Something meaningful. Something to really express the loss of this beautiful young woman.
This is when I decided to get off the group email and send Jill a private note. I told her I have an idea that might be a perfect way to Celebrate this life. I share with her our Mission at Splashes of Hope, to take dreary health care facility walls and transform these spaces from “Clinical to Colorful “ by creating painted murals. I explain the panel can be personalized to include elements that will both honor her life and be a picture of happiness and hope for patients and their caregivers who receive the mural, and which the family can join us and be part of creating the “gift”. An idea and a mission began.
But there is more to this story.
This story actually begins 18 years ago with the original act of kindness.This is when we found out how Jill and this family became friends. Jill McGovern lost her husband, Scott, on 9/11. Not long after this tragic event, a check was received for Jill and her two daughters from “ a stranger in Yountville, CA”. After some research, Jill came to know that a man, Arik Housley, had read about Scott McGovern in the NY Times Profiles in Grief and took special note of Scott having a daughter named Alana. He had a daughter just a few years younger, named Alaina, and was struck with the thought of what if it had been him and his family. He had been looking for a family to directly help and he had found one. Arik organized a potluck fundraising dinner in his home town of Yountville and kept a canister by the register in his markets. His community raised money for a family none of them had ever met. Jill and Arik kept in touch over the years. They met once in NYC but she never met his family. They would occasionally text and she loved getting their holiday card with family pictures and updates. So fast forward to November 7, 2018 and Jill wakes up to the news of a Mass shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill, in Thousand Oaks, California, a country-western bar frequented by college students, from Pepperdine. She only knew one person with a child attending Pepperdine, so Jill texted Arik. And unfortunately Alaina was confirmed, that afternoon, to have been one of the victims.
So to say this that this mural and its mission became special, personal, is an understatement. From its conception in our studios in Huntington, NY to its journey to a Celebration of Alaina’s life with her family, in Napa, California, became truly a special life lesson of why kindness matters. The Housely family loved the idea of a gift that would both celebrate their daughter’s love of music, culture and the arts and also give back to the children of the Oakland community with its home becoming the pediatric entrance of Summit Medical Center in Oakland, CA.
The actual Celebration of Life event, which I had the privilege of attending with my friend Jill, is a life experience that I will never forget.
It was full of greetings, first meetings and hugs. Little preschool cousins eager to paint and tentative Aunts, Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas with heavy, yet hopeful hearts. All the friends and family near and dear to the amazing Housely family, coming together, in love and support, and helping us paint this special gift was powerful to see.
The snapshot of life that I personally will never forget, is the image of Jill McGovern and Hannah Housley laying eyes on each other for the first time. The power of their embrace, mother to mother, in tragedy, and now in gratitude, and full of love, that would touch any heart.
Perform an act of kindness...trust me...it matters. And you never know how far it can reach.
My name is Ethan Chang and I am a Junior at King Park High School in Kings Park, NY.
At the age of 10 months old I was diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic brain disease (megaencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts). To say the least, life has had its ups and downs but it hasn’t stopped me! About 10 years ago I joined Heather and the “Splash team” from Splashes of Hope after they heard about me from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Heather and the team set out to paint me a one of a kind mural for my bedroom. I was so inspired by their huge hearts that I wanted to give back. Soon after, my mom and dad started volunteering too. I have been fundraising and volunteering with them ever since, and today I am their ambassador! In an attempt to raise funds, I reached out to a famous celebrity personality, Ellen Degeneres. I was hopeful that I would be a guest on her show to play "Dice with Ellen" and win money for Splashes while raising awareness of my condition. I was contacted by the show and they invited me and my family to sit in the VIP section of the studio audience! To date, I have raised over $8,000 for the organization. This past summer I turned 16 and became an official intern, and helped with so many Splashtastic Tasks to further the mission!
- Ethan Chang
Salesforce.com Helps The Splashes of Hope Mission
I was fortunate enough to meet the Splashes of Hope team through a personal engagement. After my son, Ethan was granted a generous gift from the Make-A-Wish foundation, our wish coordinator, Dave Gussaroff was kind enough to introduce the Splashes of Hope team to our family. The CEO and Founder of Splashes of Hope, Heather Buggee came over to our home to meet Ethan in order to discover his personal likes and hobbies. Ethan hit it off with Heather immediately, and the outcome of the ongoing engagements was a beautiful customized mural that Splashes of Hope painted for Ethan’s bedroom.
My family and I were so impressed with the Splashes of Hope organization that we started to volunteer with them since they are a non-profit that relies on volunteers to operate. Fortunately, I work for Salesforce and they are an amazing company that allocated their employees’ time to volunteer and encourages meaningful volunteering. This gave me the opportunity to introduce Salesforce to the Splahes of Hope organization to engage in volunteering efforts. This includes organized group volunteer sessions in New York, Indianapolis, and San Francisco and even a prominent booth at the 2015 Salesforce Dreamforce conference with over 150,000 attendees. This led to the Splashes of Hope program called Painting for a Purpose where any organization can donate time and money to fund murals for hospitals, childrens’ rooms, vet homes, or any space that needs to be ‘Splashed’.
My relationship with Splashes of Hope has thrived through ongoing engagement and I am currently proud to serve as the Vice President on the Board of Directors. I hope that the volunteer work that we have done with Salesforce sets a great example of how other organizations can get involved in an impactful way for those in need of having their days and lives brightened up.
- Tom Chang
On May 24th, I was given the opportunity to embark on my first mural installation. I hopped into the “Splash Van” unaware of what to expect only to later return inspired, having experienced such an impactful mission.
I, as an intern, accompanied the Splash Team of Sarah, Dustin and Liz to the Queens Hospital Center in effort to transform their environment from “clinical to colorful.” Upon arrival, we were delightfully greeted by their staff as we were directed to the pediatric unit. Our first task was to install a couple of I-Spy murals in the Sub Waiting Area. Filled with bright colors and heartwarming images, these paintings had an effect on the environment before they were even fixed in place. As soon as they were uncovered, I watched a young patient’s eyes lit up with amazement.
After these paintings were installed the staff stood around them in awe. I overheard many of them explain how they now could not imagine the room without them. I came to understand how these murals are not only positively impacting the patients, but just as importantly, they brighten the workplace of those who devote their lives to addressing the needs of them.
Additionally, we installed a third mural and two ceiling tiles into the phlebotomy room. This project resonated with me because I can vividly remember how frightening it is to get your blood taken as a young child. It is a traumatic experience and the room I first walked into’s lack of comfort and warmth definitely did not help the suffering involved in this process. The murals we installed uplifted the dull aesthetics of the room and renewed it to be more inviting.
On my way towards exiting, I noticed that each examination room displayed ceiling tiles that Splashes of Hope had previously installed. It was gratifying to see the impression this organization has made throughout this pediatric unit. I then stopped by the phlebotomy room to observe the murals one last time. Sadly, what I saw inside was a young boy crying in his mother’s lap and squirming to escape. However, I was elated to watch him calm down as his mother directed his attention towards the ceiling tiles. His breath eased as he pointed out the bunny that sailed in the rainbow boat above him.
I’d like to thank Splashes of Hope for this heart-warming experience, the Starlight Foundation for funding this project, and the Queens Hospital Center for their commitment to the health and well-being of their community. This was an experience that I will never forget, and I look forward to getting involved in Splashes of Hope’s upcoming projects.
by Pat Forie
As a volunteer artist with Splashes of Hope, I was asked to join a Painting for a Purpose event on January 24th, working with the Human Resources offices of The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC). ELC had very generously teamed up with Splashes to host an event where their HR employees would paint two wall murals, two ceiling tiles and assemble Friends on the Mend bags. The bags contain a coloring book, crayons and an animal puppet. They are distributed to children who are undergoing medical treatment. The paintings would be placed in a Family Service League facility in Brentwood and in the Long Island State Veterans’ Home in Stony Brook. The Family Service League provides a social safety net for more than 50,000 individuals in need from newborns to centenarians. The Long Island State Veterans’ Home in Stony Brook provides high quality, compassionate health care services for veterans and their families.
After preparing the room, setting up murals, ceiling tiles and Friends on the Mend bags, we welcomed the ELC employees. Since this was a team building, interactive event, we wanted the employees to be as involved as possible. They were incredibly responsive! During the event, my role was to assist the participants while they painted the ceiling tiles. I was so gratified to see how involved everyone became in the task of painting the tiles. Several had personal experiences that impacted their experience. The ELC employees truly understood the Splashes mission and worked diligently to complete the tiles. They understood that their painting would bring joy to many people who must undergo medical procedures. The peaceful, positive scenes in the tiles would comfort countless patients.
The ELC participants worked so hard, produced such beautiful paintings and, I believe, left the event realizing their work will make a positive impact on others.
On December 12th, the Splash Team embarked on a Painting for a Purpose event at the Schechter School in Jericho, Long Island. Schechter is, “a Jewish day school whose dual curriculum of excellence educates and empowers its students.”
Rikki Chastes is a former volunteer with Splashes of Hope and now works for the Schechter School. It was her efforts that brought sponsors Erika and Ken Witover, friends of Schechter, to this project with the goal of donating the accompanying murals to The Center for Developmental Disabilities (CDD) in Woodbury, Long Island. During a visit, days prior to the event, Beth Neiland and I had the pleasure of meeting with the school’s principal, Sandi Swerdloff. While giving us a personal tour of the facility, Sandi related tales of the school’s history and caught us up on present day programs.
The population is small, 100 students, and the community is tight knit. It was obvious that the student body, grades K thru 5th, were bright, friendly, happy and aligned with the energy within the school which was extremely positive. As to their choice of destination for the murals, Sandi stated, “We chose The Center for Developmental Disabilities because it was a program that we support and because of its close proximity to our school.”
So, the day was finally here. The Splash Team, made up of Beth, myself, Eileen Sleckman, Ronnie Schauder and Miguel Guerrera arrived at 7:30am to set up the gymnasium with easels, paints, brushes, smocks and three, 3x3 mural panels sketched out for the students to fill in. The theme for all three murals (a tryptic) was “Secret Splash.” This is a hidden picture challenge that we often use with children in mind. All 26 letters of the alphabet are represented with a corresponding animal or object to be sought and found. It’s a wonderful distraction from the bare walls of a hospital or the impersonal feeling of a healthcare facility.The morning kicked off around 8:30 and ran for three hours with each class of students breaking into three groups of 3 or 4 kids with the opportunity to add their personal touch to one of the murals.
The morning flew by and the students, as well as their teachers, were elated to paint. So much energy, enthusiasm and ideas flowed from them. The students regaled us with their individual experiences related to the arts; from classes they had taken or camps they had attended contributing to their experiences with painting, music, dance and so on. They were sweet, funny, captivated and as Sandi described them, “Throughout the morning the participants kept saying how much they enjoyed the painting and how wonderful it felt to be part of this event.”By morning’s end we had three fully filled-in murals ready for Splash artist, Eileen to complete; which she did so beautifully. The experience at Schechter is something that touched all of us on the team. It was a valuable step in our outreach to the youth in our community availing them an opportunity to be part of an effort that will impact and improve the lives of others for years to come.
On January 22, 2019, the murals were presented to the administration, staff and students of The Center for Developmental Disabilities located in Woodbury, NY. I had the honor of being there to install the pieces in the hallway of the main entrance, along with Splashes of Hope’s Creative Director, Sarah Baecher. The reaction was over the moon and the environment was instantly transformed to portray a wordless message of a child friendly and caring home away from home for the students and residents of The Center. Principal Janine Stutz shared her enthusiasm and thoughts on the impact of the murals, “The students take a lot of walks around the building during the day so I think these are going to be beautiful to have the students stop and talk about what they see.” Deborah Patey, Director of Development added, “…this is what’s been missing…the halls are alive!”
By Mark Ingrassia
Splashes of Hope
Founded in 1996, Splashes of Hope is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to creating art to transform spaces, enrich environments and facilitate healing.