Excited fifth- and sixth-graders in the Finley Farms Elementary School Service Club gathered around the colorful, ceramic tile mural they painted and pointed out the Gilbert landmarks.
Tuesday morning was the first time the Gilbert students saw their finished 30 tiles of artwork framed and ready to be placed in the new pediatric unit of Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.
The Service Club members spend the year collecting items for others in need. This time, they decided to create a piece of art to help cheer up children at the hospital.
Fifth-grader McKenzie Yee painted tiles of Freestone Skate Park and Joe’s Farm Grill, two places she said represent Gilbert.
“I thought it would be really fun to do,” said the 11-year-old. “I think it’s really cool that we can help sick children to feel good and happy.”
Other tiles depict Gilbert’s downtown water tower, the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch and the Gilbert Police Department.
The philanthropic students presented their mural, “Gilbert, Through the Eyes of Our Children,” to Laurie Eberst, the president and CEO of the Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.
She said the timing for the mural was “perfect.” It will hang in the medical center’s 22-bed pediatric unit when it opens in February.
“It can be kind of scary being in the hospital,” Eberst told the children. “This will make them feel happy and comfortable. I can tell just by looking at this that a lot of love went into it.”
Fifth-grader Jesse Moore painted Crossroads Park on a tile because it’s his favorite place to play baseball. He’s an outfielder for a Little League team.
“Making this makes me feel good that people in the hospital can have something to look at,” said the 11-year-old. “We put hard work into it.”
The ceramic tiles and paints were donated, and the finished pieces were framed and grouted by Da Nell Willis, the owner of Creative Hands Pottery Studio in Gilbert. She also came to the school last month to help the children with the mural project.
The mural’s frame was paid for and the project was organized by Heather Bathen, the parent sponsor for the Service Club and a central business Office director at Mercy Gilbert and Chandler Regional medical centers.
Brenda Clark Rico, a Finley Farms fifth-grade teacher who has sponsored the club for three years, said after 21 years of teaching she “completely feels rejuvenated” by the children’s charity.
“It’s a really, really nice feeling to give rather than receive,” Rico told the class. “You really are making a huge difference. I think you’re brightening a lot of kids’ days.”
The children recently collected 100 coats, jackets and sweaters and donated the items to four local elementary schools and the Gilbert Boys and Girls Club. They also held a canned food drive and collected Halloween costumes for local children in need.
This month, Service Club members will hold a used book drive for the pediatric unit. In the coming months, they plan to collect boxed Valentine cards and backpacks for kids in need, and used purses for three women’s shelters.