Madi Weaver, a second grade student at Hesston Elementary School, is an artist with a cause.
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Madi invited her artist mentor Mark Ward to speak to her second grade class about their paintings.
While displaying her paintings to her class, Madi was able to talk about her favorite pieces.
“The Hot Air Balloons painting - because it was kind of like I could draw it myself and then we just painted it. It just that I've never really done a painting that big, all by myself,” she said.
What makes Madi’s work unique from that of many second grade students, it will be auctioned off to raise money for Juvenile Arthiris, a condition Madi has lived with since her first birthday.
“Madi’s paintings will be up for auction at the Art for Arthritis Gala Thursday, March 7th from 6 p.m, to 9 p.m. at the Boathouse in Wichita. Tickets for the Gala are available at artforarthritiswichita.org,” said Zach Weaver.
Madi’s work will also be on display at the Vintera Gallery in Wichita as part of the Final Friday exhibition on Feb. 24. The gallery will be open from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
As an infant, Madi was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Madi’s illness became a challenge for her whole family.
When Madi was only 12 months old, she had her first flare-up.
“She was actually with her grandmother when it happened. We got a call that she was just curled up and whimpering,” said Zach Weaver.
However, Madi has been in remission for two years and has been a young artist providing work to be auctioned for donations to the Arthritis Foundation for several
“The Arthritis Foundation asked if we'd like Madi to participate in the Art for Arthritis fundraising event four years ago, and we said yes,” said Tracy Weaver.
The Weavers were connected to Ward.
Madi was at first shy of Ward and unsure of strangers, however, after years of working together, the pair have built a strong relationship.
“This is their 4th year working together on this project - they call themselves team "M & M," said Zach Weaver.
As Madi has grown, she and Ward have created their own style of art and methods of painting.
“Mark is awesome! His creativity and artwork are fabulous, and he has a wonderful way of working with Madi. He seems to know how she thinks and what she'll do next, and because of that he can guide her accordingly as they work thru the painting process. It is really a neat experience to watch them work together and see a painting progress from start to finish,” said Tracy Weaver.
Madi enjoys her time creating paintings with her mentor and hopes to continue painting.
“It's fun and he's my friend,” she said.
Through her work with Ward, Madi has developed not only artistic skills, an appreciation for different tricks artists use to create their works.
“My favorite part of painting is peeling off the masking tape because you don't really mess up the painting, you can just scribble [paint] on it and then take it off and underneath the painting is still white,” she said.
For Madi, the satisfaction of being an artist, and the treats from her mentor keep her painting.
“I like just painting - and the suckers Mark gives me afterwards,” she said.
For the Weaver’s, Madi’s art is a way to bring attention to a little-recognized childhood disease while allowing their daughter to build positive memories and experiences.
“Madi's arthritis was controlled with medication when she first started participating in the event, and she is currently in remission. We don't really know what kind of benefit painting would be for her if she was actively flaring, but we do know it gives her the opportunity to express herself creatively and helps raise awareness that kids get arthritis too,” said Zach Weaver.
While Madi is now in remission, life has not always been easy for the Weaver family.
In the process of trying to diagnose Madi, doctors administered a medication to relieve her symptoms that would later prove to be a hindrance to diagnosis.
“There was a mistake, one of the drugs she was given can cause a false-positive for Leukemia.
So we had two options, it was either arthritis or leukemia. We had to wait four months, that’s how long it takes to leave your system, to find out if she had cancer or if it was arthritis,” said Zach Weaver.
For much of her life, Madi has known treatments for her arthritis as the norm.
“Madi is the youngest of our thee children - we also have two boys, Austin - age 14 and Ian age - 12. Its become a "normal" thing we do. When she was first diagnosed at 13 months, our sons were young enough that the things we dealt with because of Madi's arthritis - monthly doctor visits to KC, weekly blood draws, weekly shot night, etc. became our "normal." Madi even thought at one point that everyone got shots and she wanted the boys to go first,” said Tracy Weaver.
Zach Weaver said the family is vigilant for any signs of a flare-up.
“Keeping Madi healthy is always a challenge. Because her arthritis could flare up anytime her immune system is activated, there is a chance with any sickness - colds, flu, etc. that the pain, stiffness, fevers and rash associated with Madi's systemic arthritis could return,” he said.
The Weaver family said while arthritis is typically associated with the elderly, it is a disease that can strike at any age. They all encouraged Hesston residents to give attention to a common ailment.
“Getting involved in one of the fundraising events that benefits the Arthritis Foundation like the upcoming Art for Arthritis Auction and Gala Event, the Arthritis Walk in the spring or the Jingle Bell Run in December is a great way to support raising funds and awareness for a disease that has no age discrimination.”