Like many 5-year-old girls, Alaina Hunt likes to draw horses and flowers. And her favorite colors are — you guessed it — pink and red and purple.
“Lainey loves to paint, draw, and color everything,” says her mom, Alexandra Hunt, 31. “She comes home from school and the first thing she does is grab a sheet of paper. Nearly every night she begs to stay up ‘a couple more minutes’ to finish whatever art she is working on.”
Alaina (who goes by Lainey) often makes cards for anyone she knows celebrating a birthday, having a bad day, or dealing with sickness.
The Hunt family, who lives in Colona, Ill., knows illness personally.
Alaina’s little brother Owen — who turns 4 in November — has undergone surgeries and treatment at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital for a rare combination of heart defects. Alaina, after witnessing what her brother and other kids went through, decided she wanted to become a doctor to “make the kids feel better,” her mother recalls.
“She said it would make kids feel better by “bringing them toys and books and stuff,” Hunt says. Together they decided Alaina didn’t have to wait to become a doctor to help. “We decided to use her paintings to raise money to buy toys, books, games, art supplies, etc., to give to the Child Life Program to distribute to the kids there.”
So they created Art with Heart. One hundred percent of the proceeds from “Art with Heart” go to the Child Life Program at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.
“The Child Life Program does a fantastic job of letting the kids just be kids by playing with them, arranging crafts, and entertaining them during difficult medical tests,” Hunt says. “I really can’t say enough good things about the work that the Child Life Specialists do.”
When the project first began, Alaina was just 3 years old so most of the art work was abstract finger painting. Now that she’s older, she has favorite subjects she likes to paint.
“I love to see what she comes up with,” Hunt says. While the paintings, ideas and descriptions of Alaina’s work are all her own, Hunt does assist in posting the work on their Etsy account.
To date, Alaina’s art work has raised more than $800 from online and gallery sales .
“I am pleasantly surprised by the support we’ve gotten,” Hunt says. “People really embraced the idea and many are amazed that the work they are seeing came from just a young child.”
Hunt hopes Alaina’s efforts remind people that giving just a few dollars to a cause can make an important difference.
“It doesn’t matter if you are 3 or 103,” she says. “If you had seen the look on my son’s face when he was given a little yellow dump truck, or the girl in the next room who just got a new book to read, you would see that it truly is the little things that can make such a big impact.”
When asked why she wants to help other kids, Alaina’s answer is simple.
“Because if I was sick, I would like it if someone brought me a coloring book or fun toy or something so I wasn’t scared or bored.”
Alaina says she’s happy to have people buy her artwork for a good cause and her mom agrees.
“It is a joy to be able to give back to a place that has helped us so much,” Hunt says.
And as long as there are sick kids to comfort, it seems Alaina will go right on painting.“I hope I can paint forever,” she says.