Skip to content

On the warm evening of May 18, a group gathered at Woodside Priory School, tucked in a valley under mighty redwood trees, to celebrate the healing power of art. Nearly 40 guests reflected on a collection of nearly 100 masterpieces created by children cared for at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and their siblings.

Appropriately named “Healing HeARTS,” the program began in 2003 as an elective for Stanford University School of Medicine students to give them the opportunity to write and create artwork with children receiving care at Packard Children’s. From the beginning the program was led by Barbara Sourkes, PhD, a pediatric psychologist and the Kriewall-Haehl Director of the Pediatric Palliative Care Program; Harvey Cohen, MD, PhD, the Deborah E. Addicott – John A. Kriewall and Elizabeth A. Haehl Family Professor in Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and the Katie and Paul Dougherty Medical Director of Palliative Care at Packard Children’s; Debra Monzack, CCLS, of the Packard Children’s child life and integrative therapies department; and Thayer Gershon of the Packard Children’s Hospital School. In 2010, the Packard Children’s Palliative Care Program took the helm of the Healing HeARTS program.

Supported entirely by philanthropy, Healing HeARTS gives children a creative outlet to express and work through the complex emotions tied to serious illness and hospitalization.

The recent showcase featured artwork from children and young people facing their own illnesses, as well as from their siblings. Aria, 20, held up a drawing she made of her dog and shared how art has helped her through her struggles with cancer.

“Doing art de-stresses me and that’s what I do 24/7,” Aria said. “I just sit in my room for hours and hours and after that, my mom will come and check on me, and I’ll just come out with some masterpiece. I’ve been doing art since the age of 3 and am still doing it now and will always continue.”

Another young artist, Sina, 15, from Hawaii, shared a piece she made during her stay at Packard Children’s. When asked about the meaning behind her creation, Sina explained, “The shadows in my painting represent my illness and that I can’t go home right now.”

Siblings Lea, 6, and Wills, 8, stood with pride to showcase their art made to honor their younger brother, Andrew, who recently passed away at the age of 3. Lea shared a picture of two rainbows, one representing Andrew and the other herself. Wills’ collage used colors and tongue depressors to explain the process for identifying whether someone is a “match” to be a bone marrow donor, a complicated process few young children have to learn about. They were both delighted to show Andrew’s first painting.

Sourkes closed the evening by speaking of the importance of art for children and families at Packard Children’s: “These are truly our healing hearts, these young adults and children and their many representations. They are our hearts.”

Helping Children Thrive

See all

When you hear the term “palliative care,” it may make you nervous—if you equate it with end-of-life care. But in fact, palliative care is much...