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.