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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Club heals kids with art, music”

    Their name is the combination of murals and miracles; their mission is to heal with art and music.

    Every other weekend, campus service club Muralcles visits University Medical Center or Tucson Medical Center to bring paint, songs and smiles to children in the pediatric wards.

    The children come from their hospital rooms, often attached to IV poles, to play with Muralcles members, said Monique LaBonte, club president.

    Timmy, a 3-year-old boy who had a tonsillectomy, was the first child to play with Muralcles members Saturday in TMC’s pediatric playroom.

    “”He loves to come here,”” said Judy Newton, Timmy’s mother. “”It’s a real treat for him,”” Newton said as she watched her son play with cars, his all-time favorite kind of toy.

    Muralcles, founded in 1999 at the UA by an alumnus of the Eller College of Management, is different from other clubs, said Nadia Xibille, a nutritional sciences senior.

    “”We don’t have many meetings,”” Xibille said. “”We just come here to play with the kids.””

    Kerry Murphy, a certified child life specialist at TMC, said part of her job is to make pediatric patients’ stays less stressful.

    “”We try to make it a more positive experience,”” Murphy said. “”Art and music are great healers for children.””

    Murphy said the playroom with Muralcles members is a safe place for the children, since they relax because there are no doctors.

    The kids, typically ages 2 through 16, are treated to music as well.

    LaBonte and Karen Bender, a nursing senior, both played flutes while Nick Vlieg, an engineering mathematics freshman, sounded his trumpet.

    “”I love to play Disney songs,”” LaBonte said between renditions of “”A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”” from “”Cinderella”” and “”A Whole New World”” from “”Aladdin.””

    Christina and her sister Andrea, visiting their 1-month-old brother, who has viral meningitis, said they were already thinking of Halloween.

    “”I want to be a princess,”” Andrea said.

    “”And I want to be Cinderella,”” Christina said, as she painted pink and purple cats.

    Against a lilac carpet with rainbow hearts, musical notes, stars and moons, the Muralcles members shared music, art and healing. Nearly every vertical surface of the playroom was covered in the childrens’ artwork.

    Seven-year-old Brianda came into the playroom later, clinging to an IV pole. Her fuzzy Barbie slippers glittered as she moved slowly to the painting table, with the help of her mother and the child life specialist.

    Xibille helped Brianda get started with paint and brushes.

    Brianda visibly relaxed and even smiled a little as she began to paint with both brushes and her fingers.

    Brianda was flown in on a helicopter from Douglas, Ariz., when her appendix burst earlier this week.

    “”She looks so good today,”” Murphy said. It’s good for her to get up and walk, she said, noting that it was Brianda’s first time out of bed since she arrived at TMC.

    The playroom at TMC features small tables for children, cubbies full of toys, a fish tank with live occupants and shelves teeming with books ranging from “”Spot’s Noisy Walk”” to “”The Chronicles of Narnia.””

    Kids who can’t make it into the playroom usually are treated to personal concerts and art boxes, LaBonte said.

    The children began to leave one by one near the end of the session, all making sure to take their art with them.

    Alex Kula, a molecular and cellular biology sophomore, left a painting of a pink pony on top of the fish tank so others could enjoy it.

    LaBonte said she enjoys the hospital sessions because she can escape from everything, and the children benefit from art and music.

    “”You can tell by looking at them that you make a difference,”” LaBonte said.

    There’s really only one downside to what the club does, she said.

    “”It’s hard to not get attached (to the kids),”” La Bonte said.

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