Somewhere around April 2014 I came across an article regarding an amazing Art exhibit named “Corpus”. It was painted by Mexican contemporary visual artist, Elton Duran. Corpus was a series of paintings that were created to promote organ, eye and tissue donation which was showcased in Detroit, Michigan.
I connected with Elton on Facebook shortly after and we built a friendship. In my experiences, the people who speak about organ donation or advocate for it usually have a personal factor in their lives that motivates them to do so. It definitely peaked my curiosity so I asked Elton what his connection to organ donation was.
What he told me restored so much hope in humanity.
He told me that he was given a gift of talent and that it is his way to help others.
It isn’t often that you come across somebody who is so selfless and wants to help others with nothing in return.
It was at that time I knew I had to tell him about ArtPrize. ArtPrize is an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is fairly new, and just finished up it’s seventh year. At the time I told Elton about ArtPrize, he was excited to enter however it was too late to enter for 2014. So, he made it his mission to enter into ArtPrize for the 7th annual competition in 2015.
After following Oakley’s journey for some time now, he became Elton’s inspiration and motivation to enter ArtPrize 2015.
Elton came to Grand Rapids to work on ArtPrize and found a host to stay with during his stay here. There is a lot of behind the scenes work including locating and securing a venue. I was elated when I found out that he secured the location of the Devos Place, which is an amazing convention center in the heart of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Elton titled his piece, “The Blanket of Sweet Dreams” which speaks volumes to me and many others. This amazing piece of art was made to show that children dealing with chronic or degenerative diseases have dreams just like any other child. It is an inspiration to encourage others to become an organ donor so that children suffering from these diseases can still have a childhood and fulfill their dreams.
On October 18, 2015, I brought Oakley down to see the painting and to meet Elton for the very first time. We were coming to record pieces of a documentary to talk about what this painting means to us.
Oakley is always shy at first, but he warms up quickly. Before we knew it he was explaining what he saw in the painting and what his hopes and dreams are. He said that he wants to be a cop when he is big and catch the bad guys. He talked about his family and his pet dog, Presley. He talked about how he wished that he could go to space one day and that he loves Disneyworld.
It was all surreal to me. When recording the pieces for the documentary, I cried several times. I cried of happiness and of sadness.
I was happy because a man that I had never met took it in his heart to create a masterpiece in honor of my son. Somebody that doesn’t have children of his own, but that has a deep sense of empathy for others. You don’t see much of this so when you do, it becomes emotional. Sometimes I feel like nobody is listening when I share bits of our lives and Oakley’s journey. This proved me wrong; that people do listen and people do care.
I cried because I was sad due to the fact that I have met so many other Mom’s online who have a child like mine. Mom’s who don’t know what tomorrow holds. Mom’s that have to force multiple medicines into their child’s body, sign consent forms with no guarantee of the outcome, place their child in the hands of strangers just to keep them alive. I cried because there are children who have died while battling the effects of kidney disease. Too many too soon. I’ve never met so many Mom’s who have had to bury their children, ever. Kidney disease is an invisible illness and it is a silent killer. I cried because a very close friend of mine’s son cannot even attend school right now because he is constantly in and out of the hospital with different infections. It was just an overall release of emotion I didn’t see coming at that point.
Once I stood there and looked at that painting, it made me realize just how important life is.
There are real kids out there fighting a real disease. These are kids with real hopes & dreams.
After we were finished recording and chatting, we headed to dinner with Elton and his Mother. We talked about my dream of creating a non-profit to help children with kidney disease and urological issues. We spoke of his family back in Mexico and his Mother shared photos of their family with us.
This is a friendship kindled from an unlikely source.
Cheers to dreams, hopes and wishes.