Giving Back After Adversity
On Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, the student volunteers of the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth will be hosting their second annual Art for a Cause Fundraiser. The inaugural event in 2015 raised over $4,000 for the House, surpassing the students’ goal of $1,000. The event was founded and spearheaded by then-senior, Breanna Brietske.
Breanna graduated from Fort Worth Country Day in May and is now a freshman at Trinity University in San Antonio. She started volunteering at the House in June 2015 and was very dedicated, attending several events like Parents Time-Off and the Easter Celebration, and serving as a general House volunteer.
Despite serving for just over a year, Breanna had a large impact on the House and the Student Volunteer Program. She approached Carolyn Hamilton, weekend manager and student volunteer facilitator, and Ashley Neill, volunteer director, with a new fundraising proposal to be hosted by the student volunteers. The event, Art for a Cause, is an art auction and student art competition.
At the beginning of her junior year in high school, Breanna’s mom, Teresa, was diagnosed with stage four liver disease and had only six months to live unless she received a liver transplant. Around Christmastime, Teresa’s kidneys began to fail, and she stayed in ICU at Baylor Medical Center for over a month. Doctors told the Brietskes that Teresa was not a good candidate for a transplant since she was so unstable.
“We were running out of time and my mother progressively got worse day-by-day. None of the liver institutes in the western part of the United States wanted to transfer my mother because she was so unstable,” Breanna recalls.
The family was saying goodbye and beginning to plan her funeral when Houston Methodist Hospital returned their plea. Mrs. Brietske received a transplant. While in Houston, the family was fortunate to be able to stay at the Angel House which provide similar services as RMH. “It made a huge difference to have a bed to sleep in after a really long day at the hospital.”
Breanna wanted to be able to give back to the families who are going through something similar. “I created Art for a Cause because I know how the families at RMH feel, and I want to do everything I can to help them. Having a loved one who is critically ill is one of the hardest things to go through. You just never know what will happen day-to-day.”
“I remember all the families who had to sleep in the ICU waiting room in Houston. I will never forget one elderly lady who I saw every day for weeks. She was from a small town about three hours from Houston, her husband needed a kidney transplant and had a serious infection. She couldn’t afford a hotel room or a place to stay so she had to sleep on a chair in the ICU waiting room. When I talked with her, she never complained or was upset. She was just thankful to still have her husband.”
For the Brietskes, it truly helped to have a place to come home to after 15 or more hours in the hospital. “Having an ill loved one is physically and mentally draining. It helps to have a place to try to relax and rest at the end of the day.”
The goal for the inaugural Art for a Cause Fundraiser was $1,000; however, Breanna was not too concerned about hitting that goal. She was more concerned about setting a good precedent and foundation for the event. “Since it was our first year doing the event, I had no idea what to expect so I tried not to worry and focused on working hard and doing everything I could to make the event as successful as possible. Personally, my goal was simply to make Art for a Cause happen no matter what.”
In the end, Art for a Cause raised over $4,000. “It made all the hard work my committee and I put into Art for a Cause totally worth it! I’m very thankful to everyone who supported this event by submitting artwork and bidding.”
“There is so much room for Art for a Cause to grow. I think Art for a Cause will definitely become a long lasting tradition because this fundraiser allows young students and adults to come together to support the House. Considering most students do not have a lot of money to donate, this fundraisers allows them to make a difference without having to spend much money. I also think it shows students how they can make a difference in the community and that’s a very valuable lesson to learn at a young age. I can’t wait to see Art for a Cause continue to grow and become a more prestigious and well-known event over the years.”
Breanna will be honored at the 2016 National Philanthropy Day Awards on November 17. She will be presented the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award for her work at the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth and for Art for a Cause.