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.
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.