Sunday, September 15, 2019

Childhood Cancer Awareness: September's Paint With a Purpose September 10, 2019

It is the start to another new with Hearts of Hope Stratford. Being the first event of the year, I wasn't sure if we would be able to reach out to all of our regular supporters to join us or get any new people to come and see what we are all about. We have been trying to reach out to various groups and organizations and regular folk through Facebook, Eventbrite,  and town events, but it really can be hard to grow a grass roots following in a small town. 
It is important to have a good crowd tonight because we are painting for a very important cause. 

(remember, click on any photo to see it in a larger slide show view)

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness, a cause that can be difficult to talk about, because who wants to talk about children getting cancer. But let's face the facts, children do get cancer, and according to the research, 20% of them won't survive. That is a staggering number! Here are some other facts:

Tonight we invited Grace Targonski  from the organization Caring with Grace to be our guest speaker. Grace started Caring with Grace when she was 10, she is now 16. Caring with Grace is an organization that is dedicated to bring support to pediatric cancer patients and their families in any way possible.  It joins forces with non-profit organizations to offer children with cancer another reason to smile while fighting this disease. It bring encouragement and HOPE to pediatric cancer patients and their families while creating awareness.

Hearts of Hope Stratford has worked with Grace before at the Ronald McDonald House in New Haven when she invited us up to paint with the families who were staying there while her organization prepared an amazing dinner for them, as well as gave them bags full of supplies that she had gotten donated. Like I said before, she is amazing!

Well, I guess I didn't need to worry about people feeling awkward about painting for this cause, because this is the biggest attendance we have ever had.  I realize that Caring with Grace brought her own little army with her, but we had quite the impressive showing of our own.  A total of 64 painters came out to support this cause, creating 79 heart!  I am totally humbled! And I know that the parents of the children who receive these hearts will be forever grateful!

Now, not making excuses, but it is VERY difficult to take photos while you are meeting, greeting, and talking to 64 people...not that I am complaining...I would love to have this problem every month. So those of you who would like to see me lose the camera...keep bringing lots of people to our events and I won't have time to photograph you, lol!

 Miss Lucy and Miss Lilly have come back for another year of volunteering to help set up for our events. I am so happy to have them. They are such good helpers, they know exactly how each table needs to look and they get right to work making things perfect! You are never too young to make a difference!

above photo by Anthony's Army

above photo by Caring with Grace

 After everyone had a bit of time to get settled in and begin painting, we introduced Grace and had her say a few words about her organization and the importance of this month. We presented Grace with our special Hearts of Hope wind-chime in yellow, in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness. We also gave her a huge basket with  hearts that had been previously painted by Eli Whitney Elementary School during their Buzz Cuts and a local boy scout troop. These hearts will be given out by Grace and her volunteers to children undergoing cancer treatments. 

above photo by Caring with Grace

 above photo by Caring with Grace
 above photo by Caring with Grace
above photo by Caring with Grace

We hope to see you next month, October 8th, when we paint for Blue Star Mothers and Families!

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Making of our 2019 Specialty Ornament, "Our Community Rebuilds"

Making our yearly ornaments is a long and complex process requiring a lot more steps that you would think. This is why are constantly putting out calls for volunteers. We need volunteers helping us to make it a success!

Step 1: Find an artist to agree to paint an original design for you. Of course, we in Stratford are so fortunate to have Alese Taite on our team. She is our resident artist who has created our specialty heart for the past two seasons, and she approached us with the idea of painting a heart with the Shakespeare Theater on it shortly after the Shakespeare Theater burned to the ground in January. We agreed it would be a lovely tribute to the iconic Stratford building, and she soon began work on it.

Step 2: Alese googled some photos of the theater and began her pencil drawing of what would be this year's ornament. Of course all this work had to be done between her family life, work,  and personal commitments.  It is a difficult task to paint something so large on a heart that is only 4 inches big.

A work in progress.

The final product, and it was definitely worth the wait!

Step 3: Once I received the heart from Alese, the heart was photographed, editing software was used to remove the area where the hole was, and text was added to the bottom. The edited photo was sent off to our founder for approval and printing. Once approved, our founder Judy, got busy creating the card that will be packaged with each of the hearts. 

Step 4:  We put out a call for volunteers to come to Sterling House to paint the first 100 of our ceramic hearts blue. We decided for the first time to paint our hearts something other than our traditional white. With the sky in this ornament being such a lovely shade of blue, we decided to try to match it with a light blue, and we are very pleased with the results. 

Of course you already know that each of these clay hearts was made by hand by volunteers here at Sterling House in Stratford and fired at the Senior Center in Shelton. 

Step 5: Once the copies arrived, they had to be carefully cut out. 

An additional trimming is necessary on the paper hearts so they fit properly on each heart. 

Step 6: The paper hearts are then mod podged onto the hearts, making sure there are no air bubbles and the edges are secure.

The center hole has to carefully be punched through.

A wallpaper roller is used to insure the paper sticks to the heart and decreases the likelihood of later air bubbles forming.

Our first 100 hearts are mod podged on... but we are only half way through the process.

Step 7: Glitter is added to the trees, shrubs, and rooftops. 

Step 8: This year we decided to add paint dots around the edges of the hearts instead of the puffy paint. 

Step 9: Once the paint is dry, the ornaments are mod podged on the front and sides; and the next day they are flipped over and mod podged on the back. 

Step 10: We also have hundreds of Hope charms that need to be put on split rings, which is a time consuming process that requires good close up eyesight. 

Step 11: (for those who haven't lost count)  Those Hope charms then need to be put on to ribbons, which of course needed to be previously cut to a specific length.

Step 12:The ribbons need to be tied on to each of the individual heart. 

Step 13: The hearts will then need to be put into a bubble wrap bag, and then placed with the HoH Teamwork and Artist cards into a white organza bag for sale on our web site and a few locations around Stratford for $15.

So now you can see why we need so many volunteers in order for this project to be completed. Without you, we can not make this dream come true.