Hallie: Oodles of Doodles
“My mom tells me that I loved the book so much that I slept with it, and brought it with me wherever I went…”
When Hallie was 10 months old, she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma – a rare kind of cancer that, as she describes, is like an octopus, “It’s got a head but it also has legs… Making it really hard to get rid of.”
Hallie celebrated her first birthday in a crib in the hospital, recovering from one of many operations. For years, her entire childhood revolved around being sick, or surgery and recovering from surgery, as well as radiation and chemo – and the side effects.
Spending her early years being sick wasn’t easy. She was the only kindergartener who was bald.
Through a mutual friend, Art with Heart’s founder, Steffanie Lorig heard about Hallie’s struggles. Due to her own many childhood health crises, Steffanie knew firsthand how scary it was to be hospitalized for long periods of time and was determined to do something. Inspired by a dream, Steffanie set out to create a therapeutic book to help kids like Hallie.
During the two and a half years it took to create Oodles of Doodles Hallie still struggled for life. Nothing the hospital did seemed to work. They finally resorted to doing a stem cell transplant when she was six and a half. Hallie spent 40 days in a coma, but was finally cured.
She recalls when she finally got to go home – my mom had painted all over the car, and they sang my favorite song, “Who Let the Dogs Out” at the top of their lungs all the way home.
Her illness isn’t something she usually talks about – “Not all of my friends even knew about it. It’s a part of me… but it’s not who I am.”
When the book was ready, Art with Heart threw a book launch party, inviting the family as honored guests.
“My mom tells me that I loved the book so much that I slept with it, and brought it with me wherever I went.”
Now, as a young adult looking back at that time in her life, she reflects on what Oodles of Doodles did for her, “You hold it and it holds you and your feelings. It’s like a leather jacket – the closer you get to it, the more it becomes a part of you. And the more you put into it – and add to it, the more comforting it becomes.”
Hallie recommends the book for kids in the hospital because, as she says, “they don’t have much going for them.” The books give them comfort when they’re alone in their rooms.
“If kids don’t have help sharing their feelings after something scary happens, they will end up carrying all that confusion and anger with them for the rest of their lives. And as you probably know, bottling it up inside only makes things worse.
“Art with Heart changed my story. It turned something really hard into something that helps other kids every single day. The book is dedicated to me… but it has so many other stories it can tell. Art with Heart makes it possible for me – and kids like me – to tell our stories, have hope, and dream once again. It heals the wounds we carry with us in our hearts – and in our bodies.”
Hallie is currently serving as Art with Heart’s first Youth Advisor.