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Madison teen puts coloring books, local artist’s work, into patients’ hands

Published on Monday, July 17, 2017

By: Annie Oeth

Emma Harrington’s love of children and networking with friends and family took her idea for reaching out to Batson Children’s Hospital patients from the drawing board to, well, drawing.

The rising Madison Central High sophomore’s plan of putting a coloring book and crayons in the hands of all patients, sparked less than a year ago, has resulted in a book designed and drawn by her father, Jack Harrington, and well-known watercolorist Wyatt Waters. The first boxes of the books were presented by Emma Harrington and her father June 30.

Jack and Emma Herrington brought thousands of Color My Cares coloring books to Batson Children's Hospital June 30. The books include lighthearted images and Mississippi scenes as well as pages for journaling.

“I really love kids,” Emma said, “and I wanted to do something especially for kids who are sick. Some of them have been sick their whole lives. I wanted to reach out to them and help in some way.”

Harrington came to her parents, Jack and Teresa Harrington, with her idea, and before long, the project, named ColorMyCares, gained legal status as a nonprofit organization.

“My dad became my secretary and one of my advisors,” Emma said. “And he drew some of the pictures, and some of them were drawn by Wyatt Waters, who is a family friend.”

For Waters, helping patients and families at Batson Children’s Hospital was an easy choice.

Waters“When I was in second grade, I spent an extended time in the hospital. It was a scary time that seemed to pass slowly,” said the Clinton-based artist and illustrator. “Drawing was the way I dealt with that passage of time. Today when children are being treated at Batson, they receive not only the medical care of a hospital but care given in a way that is sensitive to a child’s needs. We hope this project can provide a way for young patients and their families to occupy their time and deal with the fear that can be a part of healing.”

The drawings include sketches of Waters’ paintings as well as works by Jack, an engineer and business owner with an art avocation. The pages include encouraging messages, Mississippi scenes and light-hearted cartoon-like images, some simplistic and some akin to coloring books aimed at adults. Alongside each coloring page, there is a blank page for journaling.

“This is a way that patients can write about their feelings and express themselves,” Jack said. “It can also be a keepsake for patients’ parents.”

“We’re hoping that some of the coloring pages come back to Batson Children’s Hospital,” Emma said. “We’d like to eventually make a book out of them.”

What Emma and Jack Harrington, Wyatt Waters and ColorMyCares have done for our patients at Batson Children’s Hospital is such a kind gesture.  We are all impressed by Emma’s initiative to make a difference for our patients,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi. “We thank all those who have made this possible.”

 “This will be so precious to the families of our patients, and it will give our children a way to relax and to be creative while in the hospital,” said Laurie Heiden, child life coordinator at Batson Children’s Hospital.

The initial 5,000 coloring books’ printing was paid for with fundraisers. Some $4,000 came from a week of efforts at Rosa Scott, a ninth-grade school in Madison. Principal Sean Brewer is member of the Color My Cares board of directors, as is Children’s of Mississippi CEO Guy Giesecke, UMMC dermatology resident Dr. Anna Wile, Waters and, of course, Emma.

Emma center, and her father Jack enjoy a coloring session with Batson Children's Hospital patient Lydia Abraham, left, of Richland, and Lydia's sister Arianna.

Brewer said he was impressed with his student’s goal of creating a nonprofit organization as well as with how she went about it. “Emma asked for a meeting on how Rosa Scott could help ColorMyCares, and she was very organized and prepared, and very serious. She had thought through all the details. After that meeting, it was apparent that this was a wonderful idea.”

“Our students always get behind projects that are meaningful to the community,” Brewer said.