An unusual donation is helping to brighten children’s hospital stay

JULY 9 - When Patricia Ing decided to honour the memory of her beloved dog, Nikki, who passed away last September, she wanted to somehow connect it to her ongoing support of Guelph General Hospital. Enter Guelph artist Greg Elliot who brought almost 40 years of experience painting murals in the Hospital. Together, Patricia and Greg are helping Nikki make children at the Hospital feel better even though she is long gone.

It almost seems as if Nikki is listening in on Greg and Patricia's conversation. (click on photo to enlarge)

Patricia has been a long-time supporter of the Hospital. Greg too has been a long-time supporter donating hundreds of hours of his time to help brighten the experience of the Hospital’s sick children. Now, Patricia is sponsoring Greg to paint murals in the children’s rooms and Greg is using Nikki’s image to help him.

“I first became involved in painting murals in the paediatric department in 1976 which was the International Year of the Child,” Greg explains. “The University’s Women’s group had some money they wanted to spend on something related to children. They decided to commission a mural for the Hospital’s paediatric department.”

Greg was one of a handful of local artists invited to bring a sample of their work to a tea party hosted by the group. His large painting of a dancing clown quickly won them over and the commission was his. He ended up painting a long hallway with images from fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

The first mural was a big hit. So much so the CEO at the time, Allan Whitworth, contacted him a few weeks later. He said he didn’t have as much money as they paid for the first mural but could Greg do something more. Greg agreed and part way through his second mural he decided to do it for free and only take money to buy supplies. That started him on a 6-year journey where he’d donate a week a year painting murals in paediatrics. By the time he finished in 1981, all the walls were done and Greg figured there was over 1,000 square feet of mural.

He said kids would sit in a semi-circle and watch him work while they were given juice and cookies. So, he decided to insert the name of every kid who watched somewhere into the mural. Decades later he’s still approached by adults who remember being kids and watching him paint in the Hospital.

This time, Greg is using Nikki to help tell a visual story. Four rooms will adorned with Nikki meeting all sorts of animals, including a monkey and some ducklings.

“She was a wonderful dog and I think she’d be very happy knowing she’s helping children feel better,” said Patricia. “I’m so glad Greg was able to help make this happen.”

An unusual donation but a welcome one nonetheless said Suzanne Bone, CEO of the Foundation of Guelph General Hospital.

“There are many ways to support the Hospital. These murals will be a lovely part of our young patients’ experience and I know will help raise their spirits. I’m so grateful to both Patricia and Greg.”