Empower Kids Through Art with Heart: Spotlight and Giveaway



Art with Heart is on a mission to help children overcome trauma through creative expression. Our five therapeutic activity books for children, wraparound curricula, and trainings allow us to reach the greatest possible reach by using the “train the trainer” model.

Our books, including Draw It Out, Ink About It, Magnificent Marvelous Me!, and Chill & Spill, help children process complicated feelings while identifying their support systems and building a vocabulary that supports their emotions. The books are research-based, integrating narrative, cognitive behavioral, and art therapy with social and emotional learning strategies.

Art with Heart Collage.jpgAnd while we’re proud of the research and therapeutic background that’s gone into all the work we do, the best part is that all of this is opaque to children. They enjoy working through the pages, thinking about their own experiences, and considering the many and varied options for their futures. For many children, the book becomes a record of growth and transformation.

If you’d like to know more about Art with Heart, please email info@artwithheart.org or visit us on the web or through social media, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube. We’re available for training and consulting, and we’d love to hear from you!

To help spread the awareness of this amazing organization, we will be giving away a FREE copy of one of their books.


Choose one or more ways to enter:

  1. Sign up for email notifications at ChildLifeMommy.com and leave a comment on this post.
  2. Facebook: Follow Child Life Mommy, leave a comment and tag a friend on the post.
  3. Facebook: Follow Art with Heart and leave a comment on the post.
  4. Twitter: Follow, Like and RT the post to @ChildLifeMommy and @Art_With_Heart
  5. Instagram: Follow @ChildLifeMommy, Like and Tag a friend in the post.

Good Luck, winner will be chosen 11/21/16


Giving Back: Spotlight on Sara’s Smiles Foundation

Last spring I had the opportunity to meet Jen Burke, the founder of Sara’s Smiles Foundation at the CLC Conference. She was full of positive energy and compassion to help children fighting and surviving cancer.


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Sara’s Smiles Foundation, a designated 501(c)(3) organization, was created by the family of 5 year-old Sara Burke to carry on her memory, spirit, and legacy of hope, determination, and cheer. Sara was a vibrant, energetic, little girl who loved arts and crafts, mac and cheese, music, her Big Wheel, and her big brother and big sister.

Upon being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, Sara and her mother lived at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for seven months. During that time, Sara underwent multiple surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, stem cell transplants, and therapies of all sorts. Despite her difficult, adverse circumstances Sara battled her disease with fierce determination and an unwavering positive attitude, living every moment to the fullest. Although physically isolated, she was able to harness the power of love from her family, friends, and community. This energy filled her heart, brightened her outlook, and strengthened her resolve to fight.

Tragically, on May 12, 2008, Sara lost her courageous battle with cancer. The many, many happy memories that Sara experienced in the hospital are the primary inspiration behind Sara’s Smiles. Our mission is to extend a loving hand in helping to create a warmer, more personal, more empowered experience for children who are struggling with cancer by providing a variety of resources to entertain, comfort, and educate. The three major facets of Sara’s Smiles are our website, Inspiration Kits, and Inspiration Stations. All three are designed to encourage a more positive experience for children and their families.

Our Website:

Our website, www.saras-smiles.org, is designed for both the child diagnosed with cancer as well as his/her family and friends. The website provides information about our Inspiration Kits, Inspiration Stations, and many valuable resources. A comprehensive, user-friendly list of organizations that support and advocate for kids with cancer as well as websites and apps for games, arts and crafts, stress management, and pain relief are also featured on our site.

Our Inspiration Kits:

Sara’s Smiles Inspiration Kits help cultivate a more positive environment and frame of mind for children who are fighting and surviving cancer. Each Inspiration Kit is designed to be durable, portable, practical, and fun. Our kits contain a sampling of the resources found on our website- items that can help families stay organized, connect with others, and explore creative ways to encourage smiles. Whether in the hospital or at home, we believe that engaging children not only brightens their spirits, but empowers them as well. Sara’s Smiles donates Inspiration Kits to pediatric cancer patients in the many hospitals with whom we are partnered and also upon request free of charge. Kits can be ordered by phone or our website.

Our Inspiration Stations:


Sara’s Smiles Inspiration Stations are where clouds are lifted and joy is inspired via the creation of bright, beautiful, Inspiration Cards. Inspiration Stations are easy to set up and can be hosted by anyone, anywhere such as at schools, parties, shopping centers, etc. Volunteers hosting Inspiration Stations encourage people to share colorful, uplifting, and positive words, phrases, quotes, and pictures on cloud-shaped Inspiration Cards. The cards, crammed with positive “graffiti,” offer an extra measure of love and support to the patients and families who receive them. The Inspiration Cards can also be used to add a spot of color to the walls of a child’s room. They act as a constant reminder of the strength that lies within each child and the unbroken, loving connection to a community that cares about them. Inspiration Cards are included in our kits. They can also be delivered as a surprise package of love and cheer to a child diagnosed with cancer by family and/or friends. More information on how to host an Inspiration Station or to request the delivery of Inspiration Cards can be found on our website, www.saras-smiles.org.

Click here to learn more about Sara’s Smiles Foundation and how you can get involved or make a donation. Be sure to follow their page on Facebook too.

Speaking for Two; A Loving Mother and Advocate

Tonya Autism

With the celebration of Child lIfe month, I asked a friend of mine to write her story of being a mom to her son Andrew, who has special needs. She is an amazing mother, friend and advocate. I have been able to provide support to her as both a friend and as a child life specialist, but I feel like I have learned more from her.

Here is her story:

My introduction to motherhood was an eerie example of what my life as a first time mom was going to be – completely unpredictable and nothing like I’d prepared for it to be.  I purposely use the term “mom” instead of “mommy”.  For many, the words have the same meaning. For me there was a difference. Subtle albeit, yet very significant.  Mommy is a noun.  Used by young children to call or describe their mother. Mom for me was an adjective. It’s how I’d gotten used to be being described in my world of doctors, specialists, therapists, teachers, evaluators and any other person that needed an easy way to make their reference to me anonymous. My child couldn’t speak so I was never mommy.

We welcomed Andrew Leopoldo Guandique on Christmas Eve 2008.  2.5 weeks early and weighing just 4 pounds 6 ounces.  Despite being underweight, he was otherwise deemed very healthy.  While I was over the moon about starting a life with him, I knew I wasn’t ready.  I just had no way of understanding the full magnitude of what that would mean for me.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong.  My mommy instincts were on alert.

He had an extreme case of reflux so my husband and I had to watch him around the clock.  Exhausting but not quite the biggest ordeal – if this was the big “thing” that my senses were warning me about this wasn’t so bad.  But still, I couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling.

At about 6 weeks old, he was diagnosed with hernia in his groin and umbilical areas which required surgery as soon as possible.  He was still very underweight so we had to wait months praying the condition wouldn’t escalate to an emergency.  Ok, this was tough but if this was the big “thing” – not earth stopping.  The surgery came and went perfectly. It even almost eliminated his reflux.  Still, there was that feeling again.

surgery pic

Aside from his birth, this was our first introduction to hospitals. We learned something very special.  A young woman walked up to us after we arrived and checked in.  Her smiling face and calming demeanor was a comfort.  She instinctively began a game of peek-a-boo to comfort my fussy baby.  His gummy chuckle in reaction was infectious.  She introduced herself to us and informed us that she was a child life specialist. She explained the details of his surgery and what to expect afterwards.  In plain English, not confusing medical terms.  All while helping to keep Andrew laughing and happy.  During his recovery Andrew was hooked up to monitors, he couldn’t leave the room to take advantage of the activities in the hospital so she was sure to bring them to us.  I don’t know how we would have made it through such a stressful time without her.

1st halloween

We thought Andrew was 8 months old when he began having seizures.  Looking back at old home videos, we saw that he really started having them when he was just days old.  We just didn’t realize it.  Seizures are very scary however the actual seizures themselves are typically harmless.  Andrew’s were an exception because he would stop breathing.  Luckily he never stopped breathing long enough to sustain brain damage…that we are aware of as of yet.  It took a series of hospitalizations, tests and medication adjustment to get his seizures under control.  We were very happy to finally have him seizure free and could even start to envision him having a normal life.  But I still felt there was more.

In addition to the medical stuff, I noticed that Andrew wasn’t meeting his milestones at the same time as his peers.  At first they were simple things such as smiling late or rolling instead of crawling.  The bigger things quickly manifested – not walking until 17 months, speech and developmental delays.  This was an especially frustrating time for me because my concerns were often seen as new mom paranoia or brushed off as a side affect of his seizures.  His symptoms were treated with therapy through the Early Intervention program but no real effects were made to find out what was really going on with him.  His therapists all thought that eventually he would catch up.  I even had one suggest that his “issues” were behavioral and that I should be tougher on him.  Fortunately, I relied more on my instincts and continued to press on for answers.  He eventually was diagnosed with a form of Autism by his neurologist. While it was nice to have an answer and a plan for treatment, I still couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling.

Autism day

He started a preschool for children with special needs through my school district’s CPSE (Committee for Preschool of Special Education) program.  Although he had a diagnosis, this didn’t seem like the big “thing” either.  I was noticing that he seemed special needs among the special needs, so Autism couldn’t be the only answer.  Why was my son so globally delayed? Why wasn’t he moving forward and in some ways, backwards even?  There is definitely something else going on…


Andrew is now 4 years old and in his second year of preschool.  He’s very happy and loves his role as a big brother. He’s overall healthy and doing well.  While we still don’t have all the answers for what’s going on with him, we have reached another milestone, genetic testing. We’d been pressing for it for years but since he was always so underweight we needed to wait until his body could physically hold up to the testing process. Sounds frightening, doesn’t it?  He finally weighs enough to get it done.  Although my journey is still very scary at times and unpredictable, I’m much more comfortable with it. That uneasy feeling has been channeled into acceptance and determination.  He has made life wonderful in many ways and even though he’s non verbal he has shown me that I’m more than just his mom. The way his face lights up when he sees me, that cuddling with me is his favorite pass time, and that he brings me his boo-boos to fix are just small examples of how he’s made me his mommy!  I now focus my energy on enjoying my wonderful, sweet and special little boy!


Tonya Guandique

Andrew and Christian’s mommy