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Kids & Art Foundation Inspires Young Cancer Patients

PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) Forty-three children are diagnosed with cancer everyday. That's according to the American Cancer Society. But in the Bay Area, many of them are discovering fun and healing in an art program created by this week's Jefferson Award winner.

Six-year-old Maya Rye sparkled with joy, pouring yellow glitter into her flower art project.

"You can never have too much glitter!" she exclaimed.

Her mom, Valerie Rye, says artwork keeps Maya's mind off leukemia and chemotherapy.

"It shows her possibilities in that they're endless," Valerie Rye explained. "She doesn't have to be just a cancer kid. She can be anything!"

Purvi Shah reaches hundreds of children with cancer and their siblings each year through her Kids & Art Foundation in Burlingame. The children, aged 5 through 18, tell her it's a bright spot in their lives.

"We see other kids happy and able bodied with hair growing back, and feeling better. That is the biggest hope we get," Shah said.

Shah organizes workshops in the community, like at the Pacific Art League in Palo Alto, plus regular sessions at Lucile Packard and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals. More than a hundred artists and high school students volunteer.

Shah came up with the idea for Kids & Art in 2008, after her younger son Amaey was diagnosed with cancer.

"It just felt so sad and stressful," she recalled.

So the former graphic designer began leading art projects in doctors' waiting rooms. Artist Rinot Goren says Shah lets the kids be kids.

"She brings first of all, a good loving atmosphere," Shah said. "She just loves everyone."

Nine-year-old Amaey passed away six years ago, but his mother still feels his inspiration for Kids & Art.

"I feel like he would say keep it up," she said.

So for providing art therapy for kids with cancer and their siblings, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Purvi Shah.

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