Olivia Cuthbert, 17, of Dubach, La., a junior at Cedar Creek School, enables very sick children to express themselves creatively through an art therapy program she started last year in honor of a friend who spent much of her short life in hospitals. Olivia has always had a passion for art and so did Katie, a family friend who passed away from a brain tumor at the age of 7. “Katie and I both took lessons from the same art studio,” said Olivia. “During her time in and out of medical facilities, she was continuously creating different art projects in her bed to help her pass the time.” From her own experience, Olivia knew how artistic expression could help relieve stress and how joyful she felt when she was creating art. So after Katie died, Olivia wanted to bring that feeling to kids who are confined to a hospital room for weeks or even months.
After developing a business plan, Olivia formed “A Work of heART” and recruited a board of directors and a small group of volunteers, then began contacting volunteer directors at hospitals in her region to arrange visits. She also set up social media sites and spoke to civic groups to publicize her mission and find sponsors and donors. After purchasing art supplies, Olivia and her cohorts traveled to hospitals in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas to conduct group and individual art sessions for the children there. As demand for her service grows, she is training more people to help, and hopes that hospitalized children in every state will one day have access to her program. “My goal is to keep Katie’s legacy alive and to allow as many children and young adults as possible the opportunity to escape the rigor of their treatments,” said Olivia.