Hospice of Michigan, Arbor Hospice Launch $1 Million Statewide Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art Program

Virtual experience provides fun, educational and creative opportunities for pediatric patients and their families to express themselves artistically

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Oct. 22, 2020) – Two clay owl sculptures crafted in an elementary school art class decades ago by Lisa and Chris (author, The Polar Express, Jumanji) Van Allsburg’s daughters are the inspiration behind the $1 million Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art Program recently created by Hospice of Michigan (HOM) and Arbor Hospice.

Part of Jo Elyn Nyman Anchors Programs for Children, the initiative provides expressive art sessions to pediatric hospice patients and their families across Michigan’s lower peninsula. Children participate in a variety of art mediums which take them on journeys exploring animals, nature, distant lands or wherever their imaginations lead them – all in a virtual setting from inside the comfort of their own home.

Anne Krenselewski of Grand Rapids, a retired art teacher specially trained to work with seriously ill children, teaches these special one-on-one sessions at least twice a week on a volunteer basis. Families are mailed the necessary art supplies prior to their first session, and once each household receives the items, the virtual programs can begin.

“These art sessions have provided a nice time for us to do something relaxing and fun together as a family,” said Lisa Bozeman, a Dexter, Michigan mother whose five-year-old son had been served by the Anchors Programs’ care. “Anne and the entire Anchors team have been extremely supportive through all of this, and the art program was the perfect thing that came along at the perfect time. We’ve been able to do this at home where we’re relaxed and comfortable, and that’s been very reassuring.”

The Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art Program is designed to cater to and support an entire family – not just the patient. In fact, Lisa and her older son, who is nine, get the most out of this experience.

“My nine-year-old really wasn’t into art during school,” added Lisa. “But these virtual sessions and the special time he gets to spend with his brother have made him feel good – and that makes me happy.”

Lisa Van Allsburg, a former schoolteacher herself, single-handedly inspired several prominently generous Michigan philanthropists to join her and her husband, Chris, in establishing the program. The Steve and Amy Van Andel Foundation, The Towsley Foundation, Richard and Norma Sarns and an anonymous donor responded to the Van Allsburgs’ appeal, quadrupling their $250,000 donation into the program’s $1 million funding milestone.

“Art is a big part of our family’s life,” said Lisa. “It fills our home and the precious owls our daughters made are more valuable to Chris and me than anything we’ve collected. There’s nothing more pure or meaningful than a child’s masterpiece, and we’re thankful to our friends in the community who share that belief and have joined us in taking the program from a dream to a reality. Art is healing, and through this program, Hospice of Michigan and Arbor Hospice can bring additional comfort to pediatric patients and their families.”

When the nonprofits started exploring ways to launch the Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art Program, they discovered Krenselewski, a recently retired teacher who had the time and resources available to teach these sessions. Krenselewski taught for 45 years, 20 of which were spent as an art teacher.

“I get so much out of this; teaching and providing these art sessions for pediatric patients and their families is arguably the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Krenselewski said. “With this virtual environment, it’s much more intimate because you’re doing the classes one-on-one, and everything doesn’t have to be perfect – and that’s the beauty in all of this. The kids have more choices and opportunities to thrive in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their families.”

These lessons offer much more than creative expression. The home-based sessions provide pediatric patients and their families an enjoyable respite from the pressures and realities surrounding end-of-life.

“We don’t focus on the child’s medical issues during these lessons. We focus on the family unit,” said Nicole Johanson, an Anchors pediatric social worker. “A lot of love and joy has been brought to our patients and families who have been able to access program. Anne is amazing, and you can tell how incredibly talented she is and how much she enjoys teaching these art lessons. Our families love working with her.”

Pediatric social workers like Johanson offer the Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art Program to families with children who are under HOM and Arbor Hospice’s care, and so far, clients have been very receptive and willing to give it a try. Once families are signed up, they can participate in the weekly sessions, which last between 45 to 60 minutes.

“Every child we care for has a unique story to tell,” said Jim Fahner, M.D., founder and pediatric medical director for Jo Elyn Nyman Anchors Programs for Children. “The Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art Program will help them tell it. We are grateful to the Van Allsburgs for spearheading this transformative program and to our other philanthropic supporters for their continued generosity.”

“As a hospice nurse for 15 years, one of the things I’ve learned is that there is no one as wise as a child who’s living with a terminal illness,” added Amy Van Andel, co-founder of the Steve and Amy Van Andel Foundation and supporter of HOM’s Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art Program. “Being able to see this launch from the ground up has been a pleasure to see and be part of – and it speaks volumes of the dedication and commitment of our communities for patients loved ones.”

HOM and Arbor Hospice welcome additional donations to the Van Allsburg Pediatric Hospice Art by contacting Senior Vice President, Chief Development Officer Marcie Hillary at mhillary@hom.org or 616-356-5256. Funding will also support the nonprofits’ existing plaster mold art therapy program, which captures three-dimensional hand keepsakes for patients and families.

For more information about HOM’s services, please visit www.hom.org. For information about Arbor Hospice, visit www.arborhospice.org. Details about the Jo Elyn Nyman Anchors Programs for Children can be found at www.anchors4children.org.

About Hospice of Michigan

A nationally recognized leader in end-of-life care, Hospice of Michigan (HOM) is the original – and largest – hospice in the state. A founding member of the NorthStar Care Community, the not-for-profit delivers the highest quality of care, raising more than $5 million each year to cover costs for the uninsured and underinsured. HOM offers a broad range of services to enhance the quality of life at the end of life. HOM also provides grief support and counseling, as well as caregiver education and support. A member of the NorthStar Care Community, HOM also provides palliative care through NorthStar Palliative Care, pediatric hospice care and compassionate support services through Jo Elyn Nyman Anchors Programs for Children, and education programs for physicians and health care professionals through the NorthStar Institute. The NorthStar Care Community also includes Arbor Hospice. In total, NorthStar Care Community members serve nearly 5,400 patients annually across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. For more information, call 888.247.5701 or visit www.hom.org.