As she walks into the Riley Outpatient Center oncology clinic for a checkup, Emma Stumpf of Greenwood, Ind., is immediately greeted by a nurse. She asks Emma how middle school is going and how her two younger sisters are. Several other nurses stop by to say “hi” to Emma and her mother Lori. The 12-year-old is no stranger to the staff here: she has been a Riley patient since she was 7 years old.
When Emma was in first grade doctors discover a brain tumor. It was deemed inoperable because of its size and location, but Emma underwent 70 weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of proton radiation to stabilize the tumor. Since treatment, “Herman,” Emma’s name for her tumor, has been “sleeping”—the tumor has showed no signs of growth.
Throughout all of her treatment, Emma found solace by working with art therapists. “When Emma was going through chemotherapy, she didn’t know how to express her feelings,” Lori said. “Art allowed her to express her feelings without having to find the words. It helped her vent and express her frustrations.”
Emma wanted to give other patients the gift of art therapy during their hospital stays. She partnered with her intermediate school art teacher, Lisa Durst, to start collecting art supplies to donate to the hospital. Emma’s donations are made through her own program she calls “Emma’s Art Cart.”
“Art therapy promotes emotional expression,” Riley art therapist Cassie Dobbs said. “Kids at Riley are little people dealing with big people problems. Art gives kids the chance to have a creative outlet. Emma is always positive and has a huge heart. She is always excited to donate more supplies because she knows other kids are using her kits.”
Although Emma continues to battle “Herman,” she stays positive and focuses on what she can do to help others.
“Riley is a good hospital and gives hope to kids and their families. Doing things to help other people makes them happy and it makes you happy.”