Local woman helps cancer patients through art

Valerie Kelley teaches art to patients and caregivers during treatment

By Kirstin O’Connor - Reporter/Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - Artwork covers the walls of the City Arts Factory gallery downtown in support of a program that's getting results for patients at the UF Health Cancer Center.

"You take the water and you just drop the paint down and you allow the paint to do it's thing," said Deondrick Dany, a 25-year-old patient at the center who gets treatment for sickle cell disease.

"I didn't think I was the most creative person at all, I actually thought what am I going to paint? I don't draw, I'm not good at drawing, I don't have the eye," Dany said.

But the brush and canvas practically fell into his lap the day he met Valerie Kelley in a waiting room.

"All of these patients made up the face of cancer," Kelley said, as she walked us around the gallery.

As the resident artist at the UF Cancer Center in Orlando, Kelley teaches art to patients and caregivers during treatment.

"What we love to do for them, is to give them a fine art lesson, we're not just giving them art supplies we're giving them an opportunity to really make something really amazing," Kelley said.

Acrylic, clay, photography, watercolor, crochet, even radiotherapy molds -- all examples of the twelve forms of art taught by Kelley in the Arts in Medicine program.

"It's so amazing that people will actually say very commonly, I never thought that I would enjoy coming to chemotherapy. It's not something that you expect to hear," said Dr. Diane Robinson, director of the program.

Dany said the program has given him hope and encouragement when going to treatment felt like a negative experience.

"She has been a great light for me in a dark, what could be a dark place," Dany said. "She has given me something that I will forever be grateful for she is just, she's been a great person."

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