Thursday, September 27, 2012

Raising Awareness of Cerebral Palsy Through Art

The Power of a Little Green Ribbon

By Janet Harrold
Writing for the CP Family Network
For over 20 years now I have been expressing myself through art. It wasn’t until 5 years ago, when my beautiful granddaughter was born with cerebral palsy, that I started including a green awareness ribbon in my work.

The Search for Answers

Before Hailey was born, I really didn’t know too much about CP. When we first found out that Hailey had cerebral palsy I felt helpless. I thought to myself, how can I possibly help my family when I don’t know the first thing about her diagnosis? Like so many others, I craved information. I began scouring the Internet every night desperately searching for ways to help Hailey have a better quality of life. I admit that even after 5 years of gathering information like a beaver gathers wood, I still do not know all that there is to know about her diagnosis. But, I have learned a lot more than I ever thought that I could. I have met some of the strongest and most caring people and have built relationships with others who live the same life that Hailey lives. That life consists of love, courage, happiness and often times a life full of physical pain, discomfort, and exhaustion. The challenges she faces every single day are at times overwhelming.

Spreading the Message

Through it all, Hailey continues to smile her contagious smile and her determination is like no other. When Hailey was first diagnosed, I spent weeks and months crying. After the initial shock of her diagnosis began to wear off, I dried my eyes and decided to pick myself up and dust myself off and vow to never cry for Hailey again. After all, crying wasn’t going to help her one bit. I began writing about the things that I had learned so that others behind me could begin their journey armed with more information than we had as a family. My blog, “Painting For Hailey,” was written to educate my extended family and introduce them to the wonderful little girl that we are so blessed to have in our lives.
Raising awareness and educating others about CP became a top priority for me. I wanted to be sure to keep the tone of my blogs very positive. Remembering all that I have learned doesn’t come particularly easy for me. I am well aware that middle age is creeping in; my memory doesn’t serve me as it once did. I find myself leaving notes everywhere so I won’t forget things. I’ve even reverted back to my childhood methods to try and keep myself on track. When I was a child, lessons were easier to remember if they were taught through song or word association. I paired up my encouraging words with vowels. This helped me to remain positive. I constantly rehearsed these words:
5 simple words with a positive message. I built my posts around these commandments.

Advocacy Through Art

The idea of raising awareness everywhere and any way eventually translated into my artwork. I found myself leaving hidden messages of green awareness ribbons in every painting that I painted. At first they were very discreet; they were unobtrusive. Later they had become more blatant. I’ve written the quote, “I am a delicate flower; you are the sunshine that helps me grow,” to accompany the picture shown here. In this piece, you can see the ribbon on the girl’s necklace. Suddenly, this became more of a trademark for me and eventually a game for others. I get emails saying, “I can’t find the ribbon. Did you forget to put it in the painting?” Or they would request that I paint the ribbon in a specific spot. I have also been told of other causes that the green ribbon represents, such as organ donors, mitochondrial disease, leukemia and so many others.

Mission Accomplished

People are now looking beyond the painting and searching for the green ribbon. A subliminal message, I admit; but an important message nonetheless. This is only a small step in raising awareness for CP, but if each of us take many small steps, who knows how far we may walk together?

About the Author

Janet Harrold is a firm believer in educating others about disabilities. As an artist, she says, “Every brush stroke I make on raw canvas is a stroke of love. I paint to raise money and awareness for Cerebral Palsy.” One hundred percent of the money she makes selling her paintings goes directly to her granddaughter’s alternative therapies.To view more of Janet’s artwork, visit her art blog Brush Stroke of Love.

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