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Sept. 27, 2012 Volume 34, No. 6

Children’s Hospital program brings athletes and patients together

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SYRINGE ART Pediatric patient Austin Kendrick creates art in the Children’s Hospital’s playroom Aug. 29. MU athletes, from left, Allison Hu, Jill Rushin and Hailey Twietmeyer were among the volunteers helping out. Photo by Justin Kelley


Program named after deceased 8-year-old Boston cancer patient

The paint is everywhere in the playroom at MU Children’s Hospital. 

It’s dripping down a canvas in streaks of orange, red and yellow. It’s on the garbage bag hung behind the canvas. It’s under the artists’ nails and in splotches on the ground.

The paint explosion was ignited by six patients ages 3 to 13. They are taking part in Caleb’s Pitch, a one-hour art session in which MU athletes interact with children who are creating syringe art by squirting paint from a distance onto a canvas. The works are abstract, a tangle of colorful lines.

“We’re here to supposedly brighten their day,” said Mackenzie Sykes, a Mizzou junior softball player who participated in the Aug. 29 event. “But I think they do more for us.”

Caleb’s Pitch was founded in 2006 by Tim Jacobbe, a faculty member at the University of Florida. Jacobbe wanted to honor the memory of his nephew, Caleb, who lived in Boston with his family and died of cancer at age 8.

The program combines two of Caleb’s great loves: athletes and syringe art. Weeks before his death, Caleb fulfilled a dream by visiting Boston Red Sox players at Fenway Park and throwing out the first pitch of a Red Sox game. Caleb also made a lot of syringe art at Boston Children’s Hospital. Three days before he died, he created 31 syringe art paintings.

Caleb’s Pitch came to Mizzou on June 19, the first time the program was held outside of Flordia. Plans are to hold the event every few weeks. About a dozen young patients and MU athletes take part. 

The MU Athletics Department helped bring Caleb’s Pitch to MU. said Kim Lambert, associate athletic director. “Every athlete that’s participated has had such fun with it.” 

Angie Ball, child-life coordinator at Children’s Hospital, said that the mission of the program is to foster interaction between college athletes and young patients. “I loved the idea that this was a way that kids could use syringes in a fun way that’s not medical,” Ball said. “I also loved the idea that it really gives (the patients) a chance to feel like they’re not in a hospital.” 

Caleb’s Pitch takes place in the Children’s Hospital’s blue-tiled playroom. At the inaugural event, pediatric patients wandered in, usually with a parent at their side. They seemed apprehensive when four MU athletes greeted them. A plate of paint-filled syringes sat on a table. 

The children loosened up quickly. You could see it on their faces, hear it in their voices and sense it in the way they patiently waited to get their hands on a syringe — a truly foreign idea to anyone who has been on the receiving end of one.

Rainbow arcs squirted through the air and onto canvases. It was high-five galore after each painting was completed. The athletes were having fun, too. They mixed all the colors into one syringe and squirted away.

After the event, the wet canvases were placed on the windowsill, a strip of protective paper catching the drips. Once the paintings dried, they were given to their respective creators as a keepsake, a memory of Caleb’s Pitch.

— Ashley Carman