Caring Arts

Caring Arts

Art Heals
Art has the power to heal. Research studies have shown how participation in the arts contributes to higher quality of life of cancer patients by improving coping resources, self-esteem, and mental and physical health.

The Caring Arts Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing emotional support to Chicago-area cancer patients and their families. Our mission is to facilitate and encourage expression and healing through music, fine art, journaling, photography, and other creative disciplines.

Join us for an event, sponsor an activity, or learn more about how Caring Arts Programs are enhancing the lives of children, adults, and their families living with cancer in the Chicago area.

20 Years of Support for Families Dealing with Cancer

October, 2020, marks the beginning of the 20th year that Caring Arts Foundation has provided emotional-based support to cancer patients and their families throughout Chicagoland. Originally started as an annual fundraising event under the name Strike at Cancer, Caring Arts, like many not-for-profits, grew from one family’s encounter with cancer when the family of Mary L. Weigand decided to pay tribute to her in the wake of her 10-year battle with breast cancer. What was originally intended as a single fundraising event has grown into a long-term commitment to helping patients and family members cope with serious illness through the enriching, empowering and healing aspects of the arts.

We remain a small, community-focused endeavor that harnesses power through the richness of our programming, the ongoing partnerships we have forged, the exceptional talents and commitment of our board & workers, and the generosity of our donors. We are continually inspired and uplifted by the patients we serve. Here we pay tribute to our 20-year history from the humblest of beginnings to a year of challenges none of us could ever have imagined. And yet we endure.

Take a walk through time with us.

Message from our president

Anniversaries reflect the most joyous or tragic moments in our lives. 2020 happens to be the year of my 70th birthday and 30th wedding anniversary and, more to the point, the 20th anniversary of the Caring Arts Foundation. From its beginnings as a grassroots fundraiser as Strike At Cancer, to delivering therapeutic arts programming across Chicagoland, Caring Arts has faced challenges, none as unique as the one it faces today.

Strong relationships with our hospitals, outreach centers, cancer patients, their families and caregivers allowed our artists to work in close personal proximity with those taking advantage of our services. Recently we’ve had to become more flexible and creative, utilizing new technologies to deliver our services.

Still, as an uncertain future awaits, we must take this moment to celebrate our 20th year. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Weigand family, our service partners, our artists and board of directors, and those of you who have offered your time, energy and generous donations. Thank you for your contribution to the success and longevity of the Caring Arts Foundation.

— Phil Balsano, President, Caring Arts

Zac Wesoloski (above center) and his brother, Lucas, help a nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital to store toys funded by the Strike at Cancer Tournament. Children and their siblings were allowed to choose a toy following an outpatient cancer procedure.

Growing up with Caring Arts

When it comes to Caring Arts I like to think I have a perspective that most don’t have. When my family first started the foundation I was 7 years old, attending our bowling event and being awarded the “Best Big Brother Award,” as my younger brother was currently undergoing treatment for leukemia.

From there I continued to grow up, as did the foundation. We went from raising money for things such as filling the toy chest at the Children’s Memorial Hospital cancer treatment room and grew into training our own artists and musicians to work at hospitals, offering all kinds of amazing services to patients and their families. I’ve had the opportunity to assist in many of our programs and know the positive outlook and healing our services provide. I’ve seen the joy in a family as they get ready for a holiday photo they never thought they’d have that year. I’ve seen the solace a patient takes in the music and conversation our musicians offer over the anxieties of an oncology waiting room. I’ve watched the most stubbornly unwilling participants flourish into artists with the assistance and encouragement of our team.

Now as a Board Member I begin to look forward. Over the next 20 years it’s my hope to see us continue to expand. With your help I hope to bring Caring Arts deeper into underserved communities in Chicago, to continue to grow our digital programming, and finding new creative ways to engage cancer patients and their families in our ever changing world.

— Zac Wesoloski, Caring Arts board member


Since March of this year, Caring Arts has provided a variety of virtual arts programming through videoconferencing and YouTube videos. Brooke Rogerson (above), Ellen Lustig (below), and Barbara Weigand (bottom) have made a number of videos showing families how to create fun, easy projects using inexpensive materials found at home. Check out all our art & music performance videos at

The original Strike at Cancer Tournament raised money for a variety of local cancer patient support organizations. Each year a different cancer patient and caregiver were honored at a dinner following the tournament.

One of the early organizations to benefit from the tournament was the Chicago based Fairygodmother Foundation, a wish granting organization for adults with terminal illness. Strike at Cancer fulfilled wishes for many local cancer patients, including Calista (above) who had a night on the town with her mom, and Cindy & Brian Arneson (below). Brian’s wish was to give his wife the real wedding they never had, due to his cancer diagnosis. Thanks to local business partners, Strike at Cancer provided everything from dresses for the bride and their daughter bridesmaids, to tuxes, flowers, ceremony and full reception. The event was featured on a segment of WGN-TV. Brian passed away 3 months later.

Our first hospital partner was Children’s Memorial Hospital, providing music and art activities to pediatric cancer patients and their families. Musician Bill Syniar (see Twinkle video in next column) has brought healing music and laughter to countless children and their families, and remains in contact with many of them years later. Today Caring Arts continues to provide programming to the new Lurie Children’s Hospital. Lucas Wesoloski (above), who was treated at Children’s Memorial as a child, is now a nurse practitioner intern at Lurie and works with Caring Arts as an arts facilitator. 

Since 2007 Caring Arts has provided Dress-Up Photos at Children’s Hospital and at patient support communities. Our photographers, Ray, Sharon & Jennifer Weigand, bring in a photo studio set up, along with fun hats and other costume elements. Families receive a full set of photos at no cost to them, a precious gift at a time when photos may not be top of mind. See Caring Arts Photography video at right.  
Jordi Pedrola (above) was our first caring artist and Gilda’s Club Chicago was our first partner support community. Jordi and other artists facilitate painting each Saturday at Gilda’s Club, which celebrated its own 20th anniversary in Chicago 2 years ago. Lasting partnerships have been a key ingredient in Caring Arts’ long term success. 

TLC Camp is another local cancer support organization that has long benefitted from Caring Arts. A day camp for children with cancer, TLC provides a week of fun activities for approximately 100 campers, while also providing nutritious meals and a full time nurse to deal with the challenges of kids that come with special medical needs. Since 2001, we’ve sponsored a day of activities that have included field trips, performances, games and more. In 2016 (above) Caring Arts treasurer, John Weigand, coordinated a gummy pie eating contest as part of a morning of fun team events for campers.  
In 2011 Strike at Cancer rebranded as the Caring Arts Foundation, to better align our name with our refocused mission of providing emotional support to patients through arts based programming. Our rapidly growing reputation also lead us to new partnerships with cancer support communities like Waterford Cancer Resource Center in Aurora (part of Rush-Copley Medical Center), Wellness House in Hinsdale, and expanded art & music programming at hospitals. Family focused programming such as our Chalk Walk at Waterford Place (above) and Mixed Media painting classes at Wellness House (below.) 

Each of our artists and musicians are assigned to a regular location, with artists taking turns at outreach centers. Ellen Lustig (above) takes a turn creating mandalas with the ALAS-Wings Latina Association for Breast Cance. Artists are required to go through volunteer training at each hospital and have all required immunizations.  
“There is a Hindu Blessing which reads:

‘May God gift you with all the Colors of Life… Colors of Joy… Colors of Happiness… Colors of Friendship… Colors of Love… and all other Colors you want to paint into your life.’

Your artists bring this blessing to light
every time they come to Children's Hospital.”

— Mary Fiorito
Parent-to-Parent Coordinator, Children’s Hospital

Virtual Caring Arts
Even before the COVID-19 Pandemic closed everything down in March, 2020, Caring Arts quickly pivoted into the virtual world, to provide arts-based programming to patients and their families. We have a growing collection of musical performances to enjoy as well as instructional art & craft videos using inexpensive materials you can often find at home. Above, Caring Arts Program Director, Barbara Weigand, shows how to make a variety of tissue paper flowers at home. Make sure to check out all the projects on our YouTube Channel.

Easy Glass Marbling with Brooke
Brooke Rogerson shows you how to make beautiful marbled glass designs using nail polish! So fun and super easy.

Caring Arts Music with Bill & Katy
Bill Syniar & Katy Gillan provide fun, calming music for patients in a normal of at-home video performances. There are many other musical performance on our YouTube channel, so check them out!

Tissue Paper Mosaics with Ellen
Caring Artist Ellen shows you a great project to make with that tissue paper left over from the flower project! Super fun and easy.

Caring Arts Music with Olivia
We first met Olivia Ports when she was a patient at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Since then she has gone on to become an accomplished singer-songwriter. Here she shares a few songs for you, both covers & originals.

Twinkle Twinkle Challenge
Our Caring Arts musicians, Bill & Petar, created their own version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and performed it with patients at Lurie Children’s Hospital to celebrate the Caring Arts’s 15th Anniversary, and to raise awareness for the healing power of creativity. Make a donation using the button above and bring more music and art to Chicagoland cancer patients.

Caring Arts Photography
View a day of Caring Arts photography at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago in this video produced by The Daily Herald. See our Program page for more info.

Caring Arts Music
View one of our musical performances at University of Chicago Hospital’s new Center for Care & Discovery in Chicago.

Amazon Smiles on Caring Arts
Are you an Amazon shopper? If so, you can help raise money for Caring Arts just by shopping. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible purchases to Caring Arts and it’s so easy! On your first visit to AmazonSmile, you need to select a charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. Simply go to Sign in with your regular Amazon Log in, or create a new account if you don’t have one. Type In Caring Arts under “Choose a Charity” and you’ll see us pop up. Choose Caring Arts Foundation, and shop away! It’s that simple. All your future purchases will benefit Caring Arts as long as you log in through AmazonSmile. You use the same account on both and AmazonSmile. Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same, but you must log in through AmazonSmile for Caring Arts to get a donation. Amazon will remember your charity selection, so every eligible purchase you make on AmazonSmile will result in a donation to Caring Arts. Shop ‘til you drop with AmazonSmile!

Caring Arts Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization registered with the state of Illinois FEIN 36-4378926. Your contribution is tax deductible and may also be eligible for matching funds from many corporations.

Global Airport Parking

Global Airport Parking Round up for Charity
If you travel, get easy, affordable GUARANTEED parking at O’Hare or Midway with Global Airport Parking... and benefit great causes! Guess what, Caring Arts is one of them! Global Airport Parking is proud to partner with non-profits around the world to help build awareness and funds for their work. Each month Global features a different organization on their website, as part of their Global Change Initiative. Simply make a reservation and on the checkout page round up your reservation to the nearest dollar and donate the extra change to the charity of the month. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the featured charity.
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