David Henning, Volunteer Extraordinaire
Children at Van Asselt gravitated toward him and readily shared experiences and emotions.
When we met David Henning last winter, we knew he was something special. His easy rapport with children and enthusiasm always left us smiling, and we weren’t alone. Children at Van Asselt gravitated toward him and readily shared experiences and emotions. Last spring, we told you a little bit about Jamie, who was easily frustrated at the outset of our Draw It Out program. After weeks of giving up on activities or stomping out of the classroom, he started to become more focused and willing to share.
David told me that Jamie started his third grade year going through some complex stuff, and that over the time he spent in Art with Heart, he became more open and willing to share. In fact, David said, “I think he figured out better ways to communicate with people that would get the results that he wanted. He was really looking for attention, love, and connection, but the way that he was doing that was by being aggressive and unwelcoming. But over the year, I saw him going from antagonizing people to sharing. He would bring things for people and he was super eager to share his art.”
In fact, David told me that he also worked with Jamie’s in-class mentor and teacher, who had a difficult time with him at the beginning of the year. When David joined the class on a field trip toward the end of the program, Jamie’s teacher was raving about him. David said, “I could see that he was a natural leader in his peer group and he was in a better place to make friends and communicate with people after he had developed some skills.”
“He was able to explore a space that was just for him as he engaged with the art activity in combination with other people experiencing traumatic times in their lives. He built trust with those people as well as the adults, and found a way to reflect and grow.”
What is it about Art with Heart that allows for this kind of transformation? David said, “He was able to explore a space that was just for him as he engaged with the art activity in combination with other people experiencing traumatic times in their lives. He built trust with those people as well as the adults, and found a way to reflect and grow.”
David is volunteering at a new Draw It Out program now, and he told me about another group member he’s watched growing. At the beginning of the program, Jordan didn’t handle the chaos of a larger group very well. He’d try to redirect the group toward focus or he’d get visibly upset, sometimes to the point of shaking. But now, he simply asks to bring his copy of Draw It Out with him to the group discussions, and he continues working, staying focused on the his until everyone’s ready for discussion. It’s a clear coping mechanism that Jordan lacked at the outset of the program.
David says of Art with Heart, “What’s so cool about about it is how it lets kids be okay with the idea that there’s so a lot going on for them, and even though it’s really abstract, their art can just be a bunch of different colors that express something they wouldn’t really be able to put into words.”
We love David’s perspective, and we’re so glad to have had the opportunity to work with him for a whole year, with more to come! And he seems to feel the same way: he shared that Art with Heart would have helped him as a child as well. He says, “I was always looking to other people about how to be, and what’s cool about this program is that it’s structured and teaches art skills, but isn’t focused on being talented in a western, artistic way. It could have helped me build self-confidence and be okay with not matching everyone else.” Further, he loves using his own talent to help others. We’re so glad he’s loving it, because he’s a natural. Thank you, David, for your big heart and your passion for children. We appreciate you.