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Christina & Mariah

Meet Art Therapist, Christina M

Christina is a gifted actress and musical theatre performer with a passion for helping others. For years, she’s worked with children facing life-threatening illnesses, offering music, art and theater activities and lessons as an outlet for creativity, socialization, and joy! Today Christina works with Riprap Friends, a NYC organization that facilitates in-home therapeutic services while a child is undergoing medical treatment for cancer. Read on to learn more about Christina and her work with Riprap.

 

Hi Christina! Where are you from and what brought you to NYC?

I’m from Asheville, North Carolina and studied Musical Theatre and writing at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After graduating, I moved straight to New York with the rest of the students in my program to pursue a career in performance.

 

What is your childcare experience? Can you share a favorite story?

I’ve worked with kids in a wide array of settings.  Two of my favorites—In college, I worked with UMS (University Musical Society) as an intern one summer.  I was paired with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, the world’s most highly regarded Mariachi Orchestra, to serve as a cultural liaison between the group and University of Michigan as they prepared to perform on our campus. Part of the internship included me working as an instructor at a summer camp for 60 of the country’s most promising young Mariachi musicians, teaching public speaking, music interpretation, stage presence and confidence. Some were as young as 6! I learned that music was a way for me to bond with and understand all children, no matter how different our language, backgrounds or art forms may be. At the end of the camp, one child looked up at me with big eyes and said, “I feel like my whole life I’ve been singing in black and white, and now I’m singing in color!”  

Also while at University of Michigan, I founded an outreach program at Mott Children’s Hospital that later became an official partnership with the university. I brought musical theatre students to the family center every Friday to sing Disney music with patients facing life-threatening illnesses.  Helping to bring a little magic, escape and a way for the children to process all of their big emotions was deeply rewarding.

 

Family_Center_Singers003

 

For those who don’t know, Riprap Friends facilitates in-home therapeutic services for children undergoing medical treatment for cancer, and matches those children with Friends who travel to the child’s home and provide enrichment activities in the child’s area of interest. You’ve worked with Riprap Friends through Curated Care. Can you tell us about that experience?

This has been one of the most life-altering experiences I’ve had. It’s impossible to put into words how it’s changed the way I see the world, myself and my work. My first patient, Mariah, passed away this summer after a battle with neuroblastoma and 9 months of joyful, tough, beautiful time together. To walk that harrowing road with a precious child and family is an honor, one that quickly taught me to get over myself, my fears and my ego and get busy on the big, important, difficult and beautiful work at hand. Her family is now my New York family. They have to approve everyone I date, Facetime to check in on me, share Thanksgiving and barbeque meals and Mariah’s parents even sat next to my parents when I made my debut this summer in a starring role off-Broadway. Mariah changed the way I love, listen, talk to myself and walk about this world. And she changed the way I see my time with other children. With this perspective, I know how incredibly important it is to cherish and enjoy the happiness and laughter and find patience in the messiness because every single second of it is a beautiful gift.

 

Mariah's Family

 

Is there anything that we can do to support Riprap Friends or pediatric oncology patients?

YES! Please consider donating to Riprap to give the gift of a “friend” to a child facing the battle against cancer.  The sessions of music, art, play and just listening and talking together are a gift beyond measure for these children and for their families, who want so badly for them to be “normal” children for even just an hour, to laugh and play and color and sing and dream, uninhibited by sickness or pain or fear. Every dollar helps, and for $600, you can give a child an entire semester of time with a Riprap friend. Give here:  https://riprapfriends.org/donate/

What are you most looking forward to in the future?

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this recently, especially after my experience with RipRap this summer. I have so many dreams–to be on Broadway, to one day run an organization similar to Riprap, to be on television, to write, to perform music on stages around the world, to have a family, to travel to new places, even just to have my own apartment in the city with a room with a window ha!  But the common thread in all my dreams is that I want to live a life that flows out of gratitude, not fear, one in which I use my work and my gifts to make everyone I encounter, especially children, feel that they are loved, seen and valuable. That is what I long for most.

 

Kid Experts Christina, Noam and Michelle S have all worked with Riprap Friends to deliver art therapy and these much-needed services (like music, art and theater) to pediatric oncology patients. As part of Giving Tuesday, we encourage you to consider making a donation to Riprap Friends to help expand their programs to more children and families.