Wall Wishers: Makenna Foundation is about Art as Healing Process

Wall Wishers: Makenna Foundation is about Art as Healing Process

Wall Wishers
Art as a healing process
By Jamie Robinson

As the doors of the elevator open onto the University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital floor, there is an awesome sight to behold. A sea of color and enchantment greets you. The wall in front of you welcomes you to look at it, touch, and enjoy it.

This wall is a three-dimensional ceramic tile and steel sculpture that has just been donated to the UK Children’s Hospital by the Makenna Foundation. The grand unveiling was on August 1, 2003, but it has been a long time in the making.

Makenna David was born to Sheila and Greg David of Lexington on April 4, 1997. She was the younger sister of Dayne and Kelli. She was a special little girl.

Makenna became very ill and was taken to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, there she had several blood tests. She was weak and not in her own environment but she found solace and some joy in an unusual place. In that children’s hospital, there was a ceramic tile wall. Sheila David, Makenna’s mother said, ” She would just walk and touch it and it would keep her diverted.”

Through all the testing, Makenna’s doctor’s discovered that she had a rare lung disorder called pulmonary veno occlusion, a terminal condition. After that Makenna was taken home, back to Lexington to be cared for at UK Children’s Hospital.

UK Children’s Hospital is not a cold place. Other businesses and groups have donated colorful sculptures to interest the children, like the kinetic sculpture donated by the Hospital Auxiliary in 1997. It has animals playing with balls as they fall through an unending maze while making all sorts of quirky sounds.

In the corners in front of room doors, there are “trees” that reflect their branches from a mirrored ceiling to the ground, and at night you can see “stars” shining. However, it is not home, and the children are not well, it is still a hospital after all.

When Shelia and her husband Greg would walk the halls of the UK Children’s Hospital at night, they would see the kids up and running around. Those who couldn’t sleep because of their medication and pain. The Davids began to think about that wall in Texas, how it had brought a smile to their daughter’s face, and how they wished something like that existed at UK. This was the beginning of the Makenna Foundation.

Makenna David passed away on December 4, 1998. A friend of the Davids, Connie Morton, whom they had bought their first house from, knew they wanted to take their tragedy and turn it into something positive.

Ms. Morton introduced the David’s to the owner of ReMax Creative Realty, Janice Mueller in 1999. ReMax Creative Realty had been working with the Children’s Miracle Network to help raise funds, but Ms. Mueller was looking for something more local that her company could sponsor.

The Davids main goal was to build the wall. With the help of ReMax Creative Realty, Makenna Foundation was established in September 2001. They started an annual fundraising event, “The Art of Making Miracles,” to help buy equipment for UK Children’s Hospital and to fund the wall project.

Since the inception of the fundraiser, they have raised over $250,000 in the past three years for the UK Children’s Hospital and allowed them to purchase a pediatric bronchioscope. Through additional financial support from Valvoline, Greg’s employer, and ReMax Creative Realty, the wall was able to become a reality.

The Davids wanted the wall to be a three-dimensional ceramic tile wall like the one in Texas, and they wanted it to be made for kids by kids. The concept became a look at the world through the eyes of children. A search for an artist began by Shelia inquiring around for people who worked with ceramic tiles. Jill Stofer came into the picture. A UK ceramics teacher in the art department and an art teacher at the Lexington Montessori School , she was a perfect fit. Stofer turned the tile making process in a four month long Spring project for her Montessori students. The students, along with Makenna’s older brother and sister Dayne and Kelli created the designs on the tiles, and true to the magic of a child’s view of the world, each image on every tile is truly unique and whimsical.

Stofer’s husband Richard actually designed and built the wall. It is 47 feet in length with one long oval across the center that contains the majority of the tiles and a smaller long oval containing more tiles is around the curve, on the far right of the wall.

The tiles are placed in a stainless steel background with a column on either end of the wall and a mahogany wood bench that runs along the curve in the smaller tiled portion and becomes a ledge for the length of the rest of the wall.

A setback befell the project early on when Richard was in a motorcycle accident and broke his hand. He said it was and emotional time because all he could do was wait for it to heal, delaying the original unveiling date of Makenna’s birthday. “When you are given opposition, you just have to deal with it, ” Richard said.

The end result was definitely worth all the effort everyone put in to working on the wall, whether it was on the creative or fundraising end.

The design of the tiles are set up in three categories: water, earth, and sky. In the ocean you will find sunken treasure, deep sea divers, mermaids, and octopuses with smiley faces.

On land there is a zoo and circus with a clown giving away balloons. There is a sandy beach with sand castles, sunbathers and footprints leading away from the ocean. In the air are airplanes, hot-air balloons flying high over snow capped peaks, tight wire performers at the circus with a moon made out of cheese lighting their way, and of course, there are lots of angels watching over a small memorial to Makenna at the far right of the wall.

“A children’s world is actually what it is,” Jill said.

It is an amazing collage of color and life seen through the imaginative eyes of children, that we as adults can only wonder at in amazement. It is a beautiful tribute and will certainly be an inspiration to those young, and those who are young at heart who behold it.

“Our hope is now that at night when the children can’t sleep, a mother and child can look at the wall and communicate and bond, and through that Makenna’s spirit stays alive I think,” Shelia said.

“The Art of Making Miracles” fundraising event for this year is set for September 5, from 5-9 p.m. at the ReMax Creative Realty office on Palumbo Drive. This year they are raising money to help fund a sedation room being built in the new Pediatric Hematology/Oncology clinic that will begin construction soon.

However, this is not the only event the Makenna Foundation has been involved with this year. There was Makenna night at a Lexington Legends baseball game. The foundation handed out t-shirts and showed a public service announcement featuring the Makenna Foundation’s new spokesperson Dermontti Dawson, a former Pittsburgh Steeler, UK Wildcat and Lexington native.

There was also Makenna day at the recent Bengal’s scrimmage at their training camp in Georgetown. The foundation sponsored a hospitality tent and a live auction.

The Makenna Foundation has grown so much that they had to bring in Tamara LaBore three months ago to act as executive director. She has had 20 years of experience with UK and serves on the UK Children’s Hospital board.”The Makenna Foundation brings in more money than any other independent fundraiser the University is involved with,” said Ms. LaBore.

For the David’s, who head up the Makenna Foundation along with Ms. Mueller, the Foundation has exceeded their expectations. Community support is in place with people like John Shropshire, president of First Security Bank sitting on the foundation board, and Mayor Isaac and Patsy Todd also supporting them, along with many others, “The love that pours out of this community floors us still,” Shelia said. They now focus on the future and raising more money for the UK Children’s Hospital because, “We want to make it the best we can,” Shelia said.

The Davids and the Stofers both feel that the wall is a tribute to Makenna’s spirit. Something families can share joy in, even under the worst circumstances.

The Wall
By Jamie Robinson

The building of a three-dimensional, ceramic tile wall was the goal of the Makenna Foundation from the word go. To make that a reality took a lot of hard work from several people.

The cost was substantial, but through the annual “The Art of Making Miracles” fundraiser, held with ReMax Creative Realty and other financial support from Valvoline and First Security Bank, the financial end was taken care of.

The next job was to find the artist. Sheila David, Makenna’s mother, knew she wanted someone who could work with ceramics. After some research, she was given the name of an art teacher at UK who worked with pottery and ceramics, Jill Stofer. Sheila went to Jill for advice, because she really wanted the wall to be made by children for children.

As it turned out, Jill taught art to children at the Lexington Montessori School. It was a perfect fit. Jill and her students were enlisted to create over 450 tiles for the wall, while Jill’s husband Richard, an artist himself, began working on steel and wood frame that would be the wall and hold the tiles.

After a major setback where Richard broke his hand in a motorcycle accident only a third of the way in, the wall was completed. “From conception to installing it took eight months,” Richard said.

All the tiles were made completely from scratch. There are no commercial tiles in the wall at all. The children were given the concept of creating in tile what they saw in the sky, on the ground, and in the water.

First they did drawings to get their ideas on paper. Then they transformed those drawings onto clay. The clay was then fired, colored, and fired again to create the tiles. The tiles are irregular in shape with lots of texture and color, and in all took four months to create.

The wall itself is 47 feet long and is made of mild steel, stainless steel, mahogany wood for the bench that flows along the wall, and powdered coated steel for the columns on either end of the wall.

It’s not just tiles stuck to an existing wall.

“It is really a piece of sculpture,” Jill said. It is also a very wonderful and loving tribute to the spirit of a little girl. The Makenna Foundation has given a gift to the UK Children’s Hospital that they hope will inspire and bring joy to all those who come in contact with it. “When a child touches it, smiles, and relates to it, then we have done our job,” Jill said.


UK Children’s Hospital
By Jamie Robinson

In 1995, the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center set out to create a place better suited to handle the special medical needs of children. In 1997, that goal was realized with the completion of the UK Children’s Hospital.

This hospital within a hospital is a 40,000 square foot addition to the Chandler Medical Center. It has its own entrance with colorful banners that are more inviting for the children who visit.

Ranked 28th in the nation, the children’s hospital boasts an impressive array of amenities in a kid-friendly environment. Amidst the high quality medical equipment and specialized pediatric staff, there are touches of color and playfulness. Shapes in different patterns, instead of just numbers, help the kids identify their rooms.

Many of the patients are allowed to wear their own clothes so they will feel more comfortable. Mom or Dad can always spend the night because every room has a cot and a full bathroom just for that purpose.

The Makenna Foundation is a very large fundraiser for the UK Children’s Hospital. For the past three years, they have raised thousands of dollars and helped to buy specialized equipment for the children’s hospital.

Their next fundraiser on September 5 will raise the money needed to complete a new pediatric sedation room located in the Kentucky Clinic. The room’s location will be beneficial to the children because they currently have to walk almost a mile to get back to the children’s hospital from the main wing after sedation.

The Makenna Foundation is not the only group that helps. Other groups help the hospital with donations, but there are two ways everyone can help raise funds on a daily basis. The children’s hospital has two ongoing fundraisers that are simple to take part in.

Saving the tabs from soda cans has raised over $10,000 in the last two years. Collect the tabs in an empty container and take them to the Fund Development office at 939 S. Limestone, or to the mailbox room, H195. The tabs are then recycled.

Another way homes and offices can help is by saving your used ink jet, laser, and toner cartridges. This is what the hospital refers to as its “Trash into Cash” program. Just put the used ones in the box of the replacement cartridge and take them to room HA061 in UK Hospital. D&D Limited makes donations to the UK Children’s Hospital for every cartridge collected.

Volunteers can also work directly with pediatric patients of all ages by reading to them and playing games. However, if fundraising is more what you want to do, you can volunteer your time in the Children’s Miracle Network office.

For more information about collecting tabs, the “Trash into Cash” program, and volunteering with the Children’s Miracle Network, call Loralyn Cecil at 257-1121. For other volunteer opportunities, call the Volunteer Office at 323-6023.