More Than Just Greeting Cards
The M.D. Anderson Children’s Art Project offers a variety of unique gifts
If you haven’t purchased them yourself, then you’ve probably received at least one of them. The Children’s Art Project has been selling greeting cards depicting the artwork of young patients at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for more than 30 years, but greeting cards are not the only merchandise that the project has to offer.
In addition to the greeting cards and stationery items that have made the Children’s Art Project one of Houston’s most visible charities, the project offers an array of gift items for all occasions. These include apparel, such as T-shirts, golf shirts, aprons, silk scarves and ties; accessories, including sterling silver jewelry, umbrellas and tote bags; Christmas tree ornaments, wrapping paper and gift tags; ceramic plates and bowls; and other thoughtful gifts, ranging from playing cards to decorative refrigerator magnets. The project even offers children’s books written and illustrated by M.D. Anderson youngsters.
Like the greeting cards, all of the merchandise sold by the Children’s Art Project is based on the artwork of young cancer patients. It all started in 1973, when a volunteer at M.D. Anderson saw a piece of art created by a pediatric cancer patient and commented, “Why, that’s pretty enough to be a Christmas card.” This offhand remark provided the inspiration for the children’s Christmas Card Project, which debuted in 1974 with three designs and netted $588. The project quickly grew in size and scope, and in 1975 the name was changed to the Children’s Art Project. Although the project is run like a business, approximately 90 percent of its work is done by volunteers. The organization now raises $1.5 million annually for patient programs at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
The programs supported by the sales of the children’s art benefit the patients themselves. The Child Life Program provides therapeutic play activities and emotional support to young cancer patients in order to give each child a sense of understanding and control of their medical treatment. Summer camps and ski vacations help patients discover that they can overcome their physical limitations. College scholarship funds for current and former patients help relieve the financial burden that cancer treatment can place on a family. Children at the cancer center benefit from educational activities, such as tutoring and field trips, through the Continuing Learning Activities in Summer Session (C.L.A.S.S.) program and the School Liaison and English as a Second Language programs, as well as art, writing and music therapy activities.
Interestingly, the artwork used to make merchandise for the Children’s Art Project comes from art classes funded by the project. The cards and gifts are sold in more than 2,000 retail outlets in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas. These include select locations of Albertson’s, Fiesta, HEB, Kroger, Randalls, Wal-Mart, CVS, Foley’s, Palais Royal and Bealls. Retailers donate the display space for the Children’s Art Project products as a community service; they do not make a profit from the sales. The project also has its own retail store, the Children’s Art Project Boutique, in the Uptown Park shopping center at 1121-14 Uptown Park Blvd.
Of course, all of the project’s cards and gift items are available through its website.