This year Breanna’s Gift, like many other nonprofit organizations, has had to innovate like never before and I’m proud to say we’ve risen to the challenge. The core of our mission has always been, literally and figuratively, to provide in-person arts programming to children in hospitals and healthcare settings. Since COVID-19, this is no longer a current possibility, but our program team has made wonderful adjustments.
For example, every year since 2015, Children’s Minnesota hospital has asked us to join in their annual week-long camp. It is an overnight experience for kids who have been treated for cancer or are currently being treated for cancer. When we started, camp was called Camp VIP. It has since become part of a national organization called Camp Quality. The name has changed, but the intent, amazing camp experience and staff have remained the same. We loved every minute of bringing a visual arts class and dance class to campers. Of course, the gang was not able to be at the camp site this year, but that did not stop anyone from providing a virtually fun experience via Zoom!
Visual arts class was taught by program coordinator and teacher, Kim Gordon, with volunteer assistance by Gary. The project was a journal bound together using stickers that the kids created during class. And creative they were!
Dance Class was taught by artist/teacher, Shelley Westgor. Shelley taught the dance standing and Marsha did a seated version. Both versions were full of energy, and it was great to provide a full dance experience that included children who joined us from their hospital rooms.
This is just one of the ways Breanna’s Gift ensures we continue to reach children who are more isolated than ever during this unprecedented time. We are so appreciative for all our partners and supporters. Your encouragement and enthusiasm for new ideas in programming is essential. Learn more here about how we’re continuing to reach children with our new Art Take2 video programming.
I didn’t know it then, but back in September 2019 I received call from Cuningham Group, an award-winning architecture and design firm with eight offices around the world, that would ultimately expand our programming in 2020. That fateful call was from Shawn Olson, a senior associate, who shared that Breanna’s Gift was one of the charities selected as possible recipient of a charitable donation from the proceeds of their annual Cuningham Group Creative Exhibition. Tim Dufault, Cuningham Group president, had nominated us for this honor.
I soon discovered that Marsha, our founder and program director, had worked with Tim before founding Breanna’s Gift in 2007, and knew about this annual event and had attended 15 out of the past 17 exhibitions. Her enthusiasm for this creative and fun event was contagious. Breanna’s Gift was ultimately selected as the 2019 charitable recipient. We were invited as guests for dinner preceding the event – and the dinner, from the specially selected wine, appetizers and main course, was all prepared by Cuningham Group employees. They had spent months planning this meal, and it’s safe to say it rivaled high-end restaurants.
It’s hard to overstate how special this creative exhibition is to behold. Paintings, hand-crafted earrings and purses, sculptures and more were all on display at Hennepin Made Lighting for the public to bid on. Every item was created by Cuningham Group employees. This exhibition is highly anticipated, and the energy was palpable as hundreds of patrons bid on their selections throughout the evening.
Fast-forward to this week, when Marsha and I were at Cuningham Group offices for the big check unveiling. Let’s just say a tear or ten may have been shed between the two of us when we found out they had raised $22,310 for us. This amazing gift allows us to spearhead and fast-track our expanded programming this month at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.
A heartfelt thank you to Tim Dufault, Shawn Olson and all the wonderful employees at Cuningham Group.
“It takes avillage to raise a child” is an African proverb. I can tell you that preparing over 1,000 Art Takeout projects for our program in the Twin Cities in addition to shipping them to six Children’s Hospitals across the country definitely“takes a village.” And a village is exactly what we had. Led by art takeout coordinator Denise Crestik, we thank Washburn High School’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Avalon Salon in Elk River and DeLaSalle High School art students for making this all happen. We couldn’t do it without your help. Thank you for all you do for the children Breanna’s Gift works with!
(You can download a pdf of our print newsletter here.)
We are happy to announce some truly delightful news. After an extensive search, Breanna’s Gift welcomed Heather Christopherson as our new executive director. I’m happy to report my new role as program director allows me to direct my full attention on the arts and the creative side of Breanna’s Gift while Heather concentrates on her areas of expertise in fundraising, donor communications, fundraising, and all that is required of a nonprofit executive director. We make a terrific team, so it is with joy and enthusiasm that I welcome her to our organization.
We held our second annual Radio Workshop led by voiceover professional Beth Chaplin. The kids at Ronald McDonald House created their version of Aesop’s The Lion and the Mouse. Listen and we think you’ll be amazed at what you “see” when you only have sound to tell a story.
We just completed our 10th annual Drama Camp led by director Anne McNaughton. Anne took the kids through 3 days of activities: drama exercises and games, costume and set painting, and reading their lines. Camp choreographer Shelley Westgor taught the dances.This year was an encore performance of The Wizard of Oz. There is always excitement – the drama of who will be cast for which character unfolds. Decisions are based on who can attend camp on which day, so sometimes we might have three Dorothy’s!
Another Breanna’s Star event has come and gone, and our community did not disappoint with overwhelming support. After expenses, we raised over $50,000 to continue bringing the gift of the arts to the children we visit each week. The wood sculpture art project for this year’s event was led by our teaching artist Cecilia Schiller. Children at Ronald McDonald House and Children’s Minnesota created amazing wood sculpture collages for the live auction. A special thank you to our event volunteers, teaching artists, board of directors, patrons and donors; we couldn’t have done it without you!
A friend referred us, and Breanna’s Gift is now the proud (and grateful!) recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Beim Foundation, a multi-generational family foundation.
Art TakeoutTM is our series of eight individual art projects designed by Breanna’s Gift teachers for children who are unable to leave their hospital room to join group classes. This July over 800 are being sent to hospitals around the country. Each project takes a tremendous about of prep work, and thanks to volunteer groups like Liberty Property Trust, Parsons Electric and art students from DeLaSalle who come back year after year, many hands make light work and make this program possible. A special welcome to Denise Crestik, from Parsons Electric who is joining us as the new volunteer Art Takeout Coordinator.
Did You Know… you can create a birthday fundraiser on Facebook and ALL proceeds (no fees!) can go to Breanna’s Gift? In the age of minimalism, who needs another gift to re-gift? Follow the easy instructions from your Facebook page to get started. Don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram while you’re at it!
We always like to remind people about National Dance Day, which this year is Saturday, Sept 21! This annual celebration encourages Americans of all ages to incorporate dance into their lives. Visit their website to learn this year’s routines.
Applying for a grant from The Beim Foundation was a new undertaking for Breanna’s Gift. We are excited to announce that our request has been accepted and we are the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the foundation. This funding will help support our programming from June – December of 2019. We would like to express our sincere appreciation and thanks to The Beim Foundation for helping us bring smiles to the faces of children with cancer and other serious illnesses.