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Painting Your Heart on Canvas
Visibly upset after a session with her therapist, the adolescent resident, who was in tears, came into the art shop asking to paint. She was given a blank canvas. She began to throw paint from a brush and with broad strokes formed a heart while tears continued to stream down her face. Slowly gaining her composure, she silently tended to the painting rhythmically, applying more paint to define the heart. Putting aside the brush, she began to intentionally “work” the paint with her fingers forming impressions that penetrated the layers of colors and gave the canvas a texture that draws you to almost feel the sinews of the heart. No longer crying, she stood back and breathed a heartfelt sigh, releasing the pain that she brought to the canvas.
Hillsides art staff gives many children like this young girl the opportunity to express their aching hearts. More importantly, each child is able to release the hurt of their past, allowing him or her to move beyond it and heal.
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A Role Model on and off the Court
Robert, 15, is king of the basketball court. He has the perfect lay-up and a killer three-point shot.
It didn’t used to be that way. When Robert arrived at Hillsides, he suffered from low self-esteem, anger, and impulsivity. Separated from his family as an infant, he experienced a difficult childhood and wanted to prove that he as a tough guy.
Hillsides’ staff saw that he was athletic, and redirected his energies to the basketball court. They encouraged him to play during his free time and even took therapy sessions out to the court and talked as they shot baskets. With the exercise, which was a stress-reliever, and as Robert’s skills on the court improved, he learned to control his emotions. With his new-found confidence, Robert has become a good sport and role model.
Help others like Robert find confidence, healing, and peace by donating towards physical education instruction at Hillsides Education Center and afterschool extracurricular enrichment programs.
Childhood and Holiday Wishes Fulfilled
Growing up, Sarah never had a real childhood. The oldest of four, she was thrust into the “mom” role at age 10 when her father abandoned the family and her mother went back to work full-time on the evening shift at a local warehouse. As a result, Sarah was the one making dinner, giving her siblings baths, and changing diapers.
Eventually Sarah’s mom was unable to keep the family together. At age 13, Sarah entered the foster care system. Two years later, when Sarah arrived to live at a group home at Hillsides, her therapists realized that in some ways, she was mature for her age, but in others, she was at the developmental stage of a young child. She was desperate for love and for someone to take care of her.
The staff nurtured Sarah by listening to her, validating her feelings, and looking for opportunities to show they cared about her. When she asked for a doll and a miniature tea set for Christmas, they understood her need to connect with a childhood she’d never had. They made sure she received her desired presents. They also arranged for her to get her first-ever brand- new coat and a stocking – something else she’d never had before. Amazed by her gifts, Sarah cried because she never thought she would receive so much and feel so loved.
This holiday season please fulfill the wishes of teens like Sarah who without your generosity would not receive anything for Christmas. Teens living at Hillsides two group homes have spent most of their lives facing trauma and feeling alone. While presents can’t fix a lifetime of hardship, they bring joy and comfort and give children the sense that they are cared for and important. Most importantly for children like Sarah, these gifts will last well beyond the holidays and create lifetime memories.
Something Lost and Even More Gained
When Angela, 13, came to live at Hillsides, she was extremely overweight. She hid behind layers of clothes, had difficulty breathing, and found it challenging to participate in any physical activity. She was desperately unhappy and demonstrated it by bullying other children.
Hillsides’ team of therapists quickly determined that the key to getting Angela both physically and mentally healthy was to help her lose weight. Working with Hillsides’ chef, they prepared special low-calorie meals for her and steered her toward low-calorie snack choices. When Angela felt like giving up, they acted as her cheerleaders, reassuring her that with every pound she lost, she would begin to feel happier and healthier.
When the pounds began falling off, Angela became committed to the program and began to make smart food choices on her own. She supplemented her diet with cardio work-outs.
After one year, Angela has lost nearly 100 pounds. She’s shed more than just pounds – also gone is her unhappiness. And she also gained something very valuable: important tools for a healthy lifestyle that will last her a lifetime.
A Drive toward Self-Expression
Jonathan, 13, came to Hillsides withdrawn and defensive due to the trauma he faced as a child. He kept to himself and didn’t seem to find joy in any of the activities and programs.
Then he discovered the art room. Jonathan mentioned to the staff that he had an interest in building model cars. Hillsides staff bought him a few car kits along with model paint, adhesive stripes, and other details that he could use to customize for his own. Before, Jonathan had a tendency to rush through projects only to get disappointed with the results failed to meet his expectations. The staff worked with him to slow down and take his time.
Jonathan found the activity soothing, an outlet for his creativity, and a confidence booster. Something else happened as well: Jonathan began to open up and talk about himself. He began to express his bottled-up feelings. The art staff listened, without making judgments, and encouraged him to continue to explore his emotions with his therapist. Like so many of Hillsides’ kids, the art room became Jonathan’s safe place where he felt free to express his personality as well as his artistic temperament. Even more, he has become open to other children and staff members at Hillsides. It’s amazing how much a safe place, caring ears, and a creative outlet can positively impact a child in need.