Brave Heart – Lion’s Heart sculpture by Beti Kristof, 2011, approx. 4 ft. x 4-1/2 ft. x 3 ft.
Story by Beti Kristof
One man believed, “No child should die in the dawn of life” this man did not know HOW he could help make that happen, he just knew that he WILL make it happen – change the world and the lives of millions of children and their families.
A child who diagnosed with A.L.L Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in the 1950’s died. Between the late 1960s and now, the treatment of leukemia has changed significantly. The survival rate for children today is about 75 percent and better, and childhood leukemia is one of the most successfully treated cancers. St. Jude investigators have the freedom to focus on making significant discoveries, backed by extraordinary resources and support teams. The research hospital’s culture and campus foster the free exchange of ideas among scientists and clinicians for creative, collaborative science.
“Finding cures and saving lives!”
When I was first asked to participate in the Las Vegas fundraising event for St. Jude’s Hospital, I was truly honored to be invited to be a part a community attaching the incredible world-changing effort. You see I remember the original fundraising films on television when Danny Thomas was speaking about the children who were suffering from Leukemia and other cancers. It touched my heart as a teenager. I had been inspired to create a large painting that I thought would bring a smile to those young children. I rolled up the canvas and so proudly mailed it, one of my first paintings to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Years passed. My 4-year-old son became ill with A.L.L ( acute lymphoblastic leukemia) nearly a decade after. There we were with my son, one of the people who lived in the cancer ward while receiving treatment for his leukemia.
Fast forward to 20 years after his remission, here in Las Vegas. Niki Sands, a fellow artist, asked me if I would be interested in painting a sculpture for the Las Vegas Chapter, St Jude’s Research Hospital Gala Event in 2011. I naturally accepted the invitation as it seemed to be a full circle. However, It wasn’t because they knew my son was a cancer survivor. And that is why my heart went into the project. For the children and their families with whom I shared hospital rooms with, I painted… because I know what it is like to be in that place of complete helplessness.
Drawing, painting and keeping a journal was a way to process this traumatic time. Creative efforts are healing. My son inspired our book, The First Football ABC Pretzel Book. It started as a fun challenge of whether we could create the entire alphabet from pretzels. He was five after all, and I did not want him to be left behind in his academics. He learned his vowels, consonants and some phonetics, by creating each letter of the alphabet from a pretzel. At that time there were no teachers to help the children keep up with their classes and to be honest, very few of the children in the hospital felt well enough actually to care. Laszlo had his moments of being alert and interested, but the chemotherapy and radiation made him very sick and sleepy. He was one of the heartier patients and was known to chase his favorite nurses around the ward with IV pole in tow. He did love his two favorite nurses, Patrice and Carolyn. They adored him as well. I must make mention about the nurses; they are truly angels on earth.
“Drawing, painting, and keeping a journal was a way to process this traumatic time.”
I decided to stay in the hospital with my son during his nine months of treatment. I did not care about anything else; my house, my car, nothing mattered as much as his life.
Danny Thomas’ ideal project and his promise to Saint Jude brought those together who believed with him and made it their goal to create a new reality for many families – including mine with children who may have died without treatments improved upon throughout the decades.
On a personal level, I am grateful for the research St. Jude’s has done, to combat the chemical warfare on our lives and the lives of our children with their research and cures. We cannot kid ourselves; our children are still fighting the chemical wars handed down through the generations.
A Brave Heart – A Lion’s Heart painted sculpture was created in 2011. It was the first of seven sculptures painted for fundraising for St Jude’s. One I co-painted with my son, Laszlo. He is who inspired this title. With the brave heart of a lion. Every single little child who faces such challenges of life and death and the treatments, which are sometimes worse than the illness. To those who have survived and have moved onward to live a blessed life. I wish them a life filled with God’s blessings.