March 14, 2023

Colouring to Cope: A Donor-Funded Book of Drawings is Helping Patients Heal

With support from St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation’s Patient Comfort & Kindness Grants, a new colouring book is brightening the days of those being cared for at the Hospital.

Once considered child’s play, adult patients at St. Joe’s are taking great comfort in sharpening their pencil crayons and putting their colouring skills to work to bring a book of inspirational drawings entitled A Journey of A Lifetime to life.

Artists at Mac – an art club for McMaster University students – created the colouring book to help patients cope and pass the time during their hospital stay. “This colouring book celebrates that life is a journey, full of blank pages for you to fill in… keep strong,” reads the inscription on its inside cover. It’s a message that patient Bobbie Healey-Clark has taken to heart.


“Colouring has been wonderful when things have been quiet and my mind starts to wander,” Bobbie says, as she flips through coloured-in pages of her copy of A Journey of A Lifetime. Bobbie was admitted to the Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) for an autoimmune disorder called myasthenia gravis, which makes it difficult for her to breathe. “The pictures and poetry are something I can relate to and a reminder to live life, not just exist in it,” she adds.

A growing body of evidence supports the value of art therapy, including adult colouring, in helping patients cope with stress, anxiety, low mood and depression, explains France Clarke, a senior research co-ordinator who works in the ICU at St. Joe’s.

“Colouring can help to relieve worries our patients may be feeling in the moment. It brings a sense of accomplishment, happiness and joy, and it helps to pass the time, too,” France says. “These books are a beautiful resource that help our patients to feel empowered at a time when feelings of helplessness can seep in. We are so grateful that, through our partnership with the Foundation and donations from our generous community, we were able to bring these colouring books to life.”

Colouring Book Built A Sense of Community Amidst COVID-19

Athena Li is one of the student co-creators of the colouring book. In addition to studying health sciences at McMaster University, Athena also uses her creative talents to volunteer at St. Joe’s – doing arts and crafts with patients. The idea for the colouring book, she explains, was born from COVID-19.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we wanted to do something meaningful that would contribute to the community because everyone felt so isolated,” Athena says. “As a group of artists, we thought there must be something we could do to alleviate that feeling, and we landed on a colouring book. So, we put a call out to artists and, within a week, we got so many submissions, we could fill the book.”

While the colouring book was always intended to help patients at St. Joe’s, Athena says it also helped her to find comfort during the pandemic. “The A Journey of A Lifetime project helped me to ground and re-orient myself during COVID-19. I was at home and feeling isolated and not connected to anything. But the book, and how it came together, was a reminder that I belong to an artists’ community, to a community at the university, and to one at St. Joe’s,” Li says.

To help bring comfort to St. Joe’s patients, make a gift today by joining our Patient Comfort and Kindness Club.

Author’s Note:

A Journey of A Lifetime was published with funding from a Patient Comfort and Kindness Grant. The grants are made possible through generous gifts from donors and friends, and Hospital staff members, too. In fact, over the last three years, an anonymous donor known as The Ever Hopeful Fund has gifted a total of $350,000 to help fund Patient Comfort and Kindness Grants. These have covered the cost of “little things” that aren’t eligible for government funding but make a big difference to the lives of patients at St. Joe’s.

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