If memory serves me, this was the 7th annual trek to Sick Kids, aka Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.
My wife Dawn is the dynamo behind the scenes, emailing, faxing, phoning, goading and reminding all those talented cartoonists who live within 50 miles to spend a couple of hours mesmerizing those little people whose health has been unfairly treated by fate.
The rewards? Maybe a wan smile, or a giggle, or sometimes a gratifying belly laugh from a pale-faced tyke hooked up to a web of tubes.
A visit on Valentine's day offers kids the chance to 'art direct' a drawing for themselves, or one to give a parent or sibling. It's empowering, gives them a chance to be in charge for a while, a change from the daily grind where everyone wants a piece of them ? doctors, nurses, technicians, etc.
Graphic wise, cartoonists can't get too complacent ? requests can range from cupid to the Hulk to Superman. So it's wise to have reference material tucked into the back of your mind, or the drawing pad. My strategy is to draw a cartoon of a cupid character complete with bow and arrows, then fill in the name of the recipient the patient has chosen, though now and then the little one will request their own name on the card instead \, which is great too!
On this last Kaper, one 9 year-old requested Batman armed with a bow and arrow. My finished cartoon looked more like Robin Hood with a mask and pointy ears, but I had one supremely satisfied client.
To be honest, the hospital excursion can be traumatic and is not recommended for the faint of heart. Each cartoonist is accompanied by a child life specialist or hospital volunteer to playrooms, units or individual rooms. A couple of years ago I was assigned to the intensive care floor, where I was kitted out in hospital hat, gown and slippers.
What we, the cartoonists supply is a brief break from the routine of doctors and nurses, injections, heart monitors, ongoing therapy and the endless what if's required to get these little ones up and running and laughing.
Dawn and I are deeply indebted to the members of the NCS, AAEC, ACEC and the local cartoonists group, the Society of Ontario Cartoonists (SOC).
Pass on the good word. The kids at your local hospital could benefit from a visit anytime, or make this your group or chapter Valentine's Day outing.
—Ted Martin, Toronto