Clara Ryan and her family lived in Pittsburgh when she was diagnosed with scoliosis. Unsure of what it meant for their 11-year-old daughter, her parents met with specialists across the region.Despite the four-hour drive to DC, they chose for Clara to be treated by the surgeons in the Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine program at Children's National.
“No one was as personable or kind as Dr. Oetgen,” said Rana, Clara’s mom. “He was empathetic and sensitive and took such great care of Clara. I’d recommend him and his team to anyone. They have become like family to us.” When Clara was diagnosed, her spine was curved at a 25-degree angle. At the beginning, she wore a brace that had to be recast every few months to prevent the angle of her spine from increasing. The Ryan family traveled to DC every few months to meet with Clara’s care team and eventually moved to Bethesda. But then the curve of her spine grew to 64 degrees, and she needed spinal fusion surgery when she was 15.
“I remember recovering from my surgery by walking around the hallways,” Clara said. “I always noticed the artwork on the walls, and it was a wonderful distraction.” Clara has always had an eye for art; Rana is a painter and art teacher, and Clara grew up watching her paint and taking art classes. When the family inquired about giving back to Children’s National and raising awareness for scoliosis, an art show seemed like the perfect way to celebrate Clara’s good health and pave the way for other children facing similar circumstances.
The United for One art exhibit opened at the hospital on April 22 and will continue through July 8. Artwork from Rana, Clara, their friends and families, and other local artists lines the first-floor hallway of the west corridor. The 83 pieces include painting, photography, and printing, and all are brightly colored and come with their own story. Each one is for sale, and 25 percent of the profits are being donated to Children’s National. An opening night reception attracted more than 60 friends, family members, teachers, and supporters. Fernanda Vessio, director of Volunteer Services, thanked the Ryan family for sharing their time and talents with other patients and families at Children’s National. “Giving solace and support to families in those moments of stress and fear—from the uplifting perspective of a family that has come out the other side stronger—well, there’s just no greater gift,” Vessio said.
The Ryan family has raised more than $5,600 so far and is still raising funds by selling their artwork and collecting donations.Their goal is to raise $10,000. View their personal fundraising page or email Greg Scott, the gallery and exhibit coordinator to learn more about purchasing a piece from the exhibit.
“Don’t let your journey with Children’s National end,” Rana said. “Keep giving back or coming back or helping others. There are so many children and parents that need that little bit of extra love that might make their day or make their journey a little easier.”
Learn how you can get involved with Children’s National and make an impact as a grateful family.