Wesley Healthcare October 13, 2014

Twelve-year-old Angelina Smith’s painting dedicated in special ceremony at

Wesley Pediatric Center of Kansas Clinic

WICHITA – Angelina Smith, a smiley, vivacious seventh-grader, wasn’t new to the Wichita art scene as a frequent visitor of her grandma’s Tessera Art Gallery. But she was new to being the person who created the art.

“I was a little nervous starting the project,” Angela said. “With Mark’s guidance, I chose to paint a palm tree at the beach with an amazing sunset. I really like sunsets.”

Angela had partnered with local professional artist Mark D. Pendergrass to create the tropical sunset painting for Art for Arthritis, an art benefit for The Arthritis Foundation. And the creations of both artists were dedicated in a recent ceremony and will now be displayed at a Wesley Pediatric Center of Kansas clinic.

“The Art for Arthritis event affords an opportunity to showcase the creative talents of area young people who deal on a daily basis with the pain and limitations of arthritis,” said Jack Brand, special events director for The Arthritis Foundation. “I’m thrilled that the hard work and amazing talent of these two artists is now on display. I hope it now provides some inspiration to other children.”

The Art for Arthritis benefit pairs individuals suffering from juvenile arthritis with a local artist to develop a piece of original artwork. The mentor artist works with the individual to help him or her depict what the artist might be feeling, things that inspire, favorite colors, special images and more. This year, the program permitted both the artist and professional mentor to each develop a piece of art.

Angelina was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis earlier this year after waking up daily with back pain, sore shoulders and painful tingling in her hands. As Angelina had just joined the school band program, she found the routine assembling of her clarinet a very daunting task.

“She understands that she is not well, but doesn’t understand why she’s not completely better after taking the medication,” said her dad, Jimmy Smith. “She works really hard every day to overcome the physical challenges and stay optimistic, despite her struggles with some basic school and band activities.”

Early medical tests only suggested that Angelina might have rheumatoid arthritis. However, with an aunt and cousin both currently in remission for arthritis, a specialist would later confirm what her father and grandmother already knew in their hearts.

“Our family has been touched three times by this debilitating disease,” said Teressa Sliger, Angelina’s grandmother. “I continue to support my family and bring awareness of this terrible disease, and helping this art benefit is an excellent way to do so.”

Sliger’s art gallery has been a close partner of the Art for Arthritis event for the past several years, even getting involved before her daughter and granddaughter were both diagnosed. Support for the art benefit has included connecting professional artists with individuals suffering from juvenile diabetes, providing space in her studio for groups to paint and exhibiting the benefit artwork in her gallery the weeks leading up to the event.

“Teressa was the one who got me involved with the program,” Pendergrass said. “It was such a wonderful experience being able to help guide and teach a young artist. It’s a great program and I hope I get asked to help again next year.”

Angelina and Pendergrass’ paintings were purchased at the art benefit by Hugh Tappan, Wesley Medical Center’s president and CEO, who has since donated the art work to Wesley to be displayed at its Pediatric Center of Kansas clinic.

“Angelina’s artwork is a reflection of her – beautiful and inspiring,” Tappan said. “Now her talent will inspire others, as well as help raise awareness of a disease not often discussed. We’re happy we could play a small role in her story.”

Angelina’s family hopes her condition will keep improving and that she will go into remission as her aunt and cousin have. Until then, Angelina says she will continue to live life to the fullest.

“I’ve learned through participating in this program that life can be fun and happy if you let it be, and that art can help take the pain away for a little bit.”

The Arthritis Foundation’s Art for Arthritis event celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year with more than 250 influential corporate executives, community leaders and art enthusiasts in attendance. For more information about the foundation and this event, please visit www.artforarthritiswichita.org.

For more information about Wesley Medical Center and its pediatric services, please visit www.wesleymc.com.

Wesley Medical Center is the region’s leading acute care hospital network providing a full range of diagnostic and treatment services for patients throughout Kansas and northern Oklahoma since 1912. As a leader in Overall Recommended Care in national rankings, Wesley treats more than 24,000 patients annually and delivers more than 6,000 babies – more than any hospital in a 13-state region. Wesley provides the most extensive emergency network in Wichita, with Wesley ER, Wesley West ER and Galichia ER. Wesley owns and operates Galichia Heart Hospital, WesleyCare Clinics and the Pediatric Center of Kansas. To learn more about Wesley Medical Center, please visit www.wesleymc.com.

Striking one in every five adults and 300,000 children, arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability. The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org) is committed to raising awareness and reducing the unacceptable impact of this serious and painful disease, which can severely damage joints and rob people of living life to its fullest. The Foundation funds life-changing research that has restored mobility in patients for more than six decades; fights for health care policies that improve the lives of the millions who live with arthritis; and partners with families to provide empowering programs and information.