A 25-Year Reflection: Eric Interviews Emma Stumpf, Creator of Emma’s Art Kits

For the past 25 years, Cancer Support Community Central Indiana (CSC) has led the charge in Indiana to build a vibrant community of cancer survivors and their loved ones, providing relevant and highly personalized support when and where it is needed most.

In celebration of Cancer Support Community Central Indiana’s 25th Anniversary, we’ll share stories looking at our beginning, our present, and our future on the 25th of each month. We’ll celebrate the visionaries who started our journey, chronicle stories of our participants, and show the impact of our services. We’ll also explore our hopes and plans for the next 25 years and beyond.

One of the most popular resources at Cancer Support Community-Indiana is Emma’s Art Kits, which bring the comfort and joy of creating art to thousands of children and adults at hospitals throughout the country. For this month’s 25th anniversary story, President Eric Richards talks with Emma Stumpf, the creator of this wonderful program.

“Stay strong.”

Emma’s Art Kits was born from Emma’s own cancer journey. When she was seven years old, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She went through 70 weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation treatment, and has had over a dozen surgeries on her brain. That’s a lot for anyone to go through, let alone someone so young. But, remarkably, Emma stayed positive through the whole ordeal.

When asked what her biggest lesson learned has been through this journey, she replies, “to stay strong and know that things are going to be on the bright side, for the most part.” She’s generous in giving credit to the staff at the hospitals, as well. “Everyone is super caring at the hospital, and they’re all very kind and trying to help you as much as they can.”

“It made me feel so good to be able to create something.”

When Emma was in the hospital as a child, she always loved when the art therapist visited. Working on arts and crafts really helped her to relieve the stress she was under. To this day, she still loves painting and crafts like sewing. She’s made a pin cushion and a pair of pajama pants that she wears. She also particularly loves splatter painting, mostly with bright colors.

Her love of bright colors is evident in the logo she made for Emma’s Art Kits, as well as for a sign she painted for Emma’s Art Studio, here at CSC. “It makes me happy,” she said. “Bright colors lead to happiness.”

“I wanted people to have something to do.”

To date, Emma and CSC have sent out over 10,000 art kits to patients around the world. And it all started with such a simple premise. When Emma was receiving treatment for her cancer at Riley Hospital for Children, there were times when she was too sick to go down to the art room, and the art therapist wasn’t always able to come to her. She figured there were probably more kids like her, and she wanted them to always have something they could do without having to leave their rooms.

So she created Emma’s Art Kits. “They’re kits with different art supplies in them,” shey says. “We have drawing, coloring, painting. You could pick anything.”

“You guys have been able to help me take it worldwide.”

This simple program that got started at Riley soon gained traction when Emma won a Jefferson Award, which honors “those who put others first.” This helped to get the word out about Emma’s Art Kits and put them in the hands of pediatric hospitals around Indiana—and beyond. A board member of CSC with connections to the Jefferson Award folks also heard about Emma and her kits, which led to the partnership we have with her today.

We have a cool map up in our offices at CSC that have pushpins in all of the communities where Emma’s Art Kits have been sent. We’re almost in 40 states so far—and we’re confident we’ll soon help Emma reach her goal of sending kits to all 50 states!

Emma’s Art Kits have also expanded from giving kits just to kids, to getting them in the hands of adults, as well. “There’s also adults in the hospital who will be sitting there for a long time, bored…or sad or depressed,” she explained. “And they need something to be able to express themselves with, as well. So I thought why not help adults, as well?”

“It makes me feel really honored and blessed that I’ve been able to help as many people as I have.”

Through her art kits, Emma has created so much joy for thousands of kids and adults. At CSC, we get letters all the time from nurses, parents, and kids about how thankful they are to have received the kits and how much they brighten their days. We’re so honored to help Emma realize her vision of getting as many kits out there as possible.

These kits are provided to hospitals and patients at no charge and are sustained entirely by the generosity of our community through donations of funds, supplies, and time. We have several groups—whether businesses, schools, little league teams, scout troops. etc.—who collect materials for Emma’s Art Kits and then come in and form assembly lines to put them together.

We’re always looking for donations and volunteers to help keep Emma’s program going strong. If you’re interested in helping out, visit our Emma’s Art Kits page for more information on what supplies are needed, or make a financial gift here. Or give us a call at 317-257-1505—we’d love to talk with you all about this incredible program and the remarkable young woman behind it!

“It helps so many people,” Emma says. “And I would love to see it continue to help so many kids and adults and all these hospitals.”

Join Us for the Journey!

How have you been impacted by Cancer Support Community? We invite you to share your stories and memories by emailing info@cancersupportindy.org.

Thank you to our 25th Anniversary Celebration Sponsors!
  • Lilly Oncology
  • Tracy Haddad
  • Gary and Janet Stach
  • John, Cathy and Margaret Langham
  • Nicholas H. Noyes Jr. Memorial Foundation