“Excruciating” is how Lori Guadagno describes the pain of losing her brother Richard on September 11, 2001. She was already planning to move to Florida from Vermont and start a hospital art program to help sick children when 9/11 left her “frozen in time.” Art with a Heart became her life raft. She says she could “relate so much to the pain and the anguish” of the families in the hospital. “I knew it was something really big and really important,” Guadagno says, “and that it was going to save me.”
Art with a Heart volunteers help kids choose what kind of art they want to do, like painting, drawing, or photography. Sometimes volunteers simply create art for the kids’ hospital rooms. Guadagno says the purpose of Art with a Heart is bringing kids an “experience where they can feel normal again, where they feel they are not defined by their illness. They're defined by an artistic moment.”
One young patient struggling with a brain tumor would time his treatments around visits from Art with a Heart. Guadagno says, “His room would be full of unicorns with his tumor... riding into a rainbow.” That image is on now on his grave marker.
Guadagno credits her brother’s memory for inspiring her to help thousands of kids. “I really really tried, especially after 9/11 and what happened to my brother and such a senseless loss, to try and turn that into something positive... not to let the darkness that could have been, take over.”
“I think Rich would have been really proud,” she says.
For more information on Art with a Heart, visit their website: artwithaheart.info.
Morning Express with Robin Meade airs Monday through Friday at 6am ET on HLN. Like the show on Facebook, follow on Twitter: @MorningExp