Patients at the UPMC-Hillman Cancer Center will have a brighter Valentine’s Day, thanks to youngsters in South Fayette Township.

Students at Priya Arts have created heart-shaped messages of kindness to be made into an 8-by-8-foot banner for presentation to the facility in Shadyside.

“When I proposed the idea to the cancer center director and the organization, they were super excited that we are doing this, and they right away said they want to display it permanently,” studio owner Selva Priya said. “They have been practicing for a month to make their hearts today. I told them our theme was going to be kindness, so they came up with unique ideas.”

Examples include such creative notions as a girl sheltering a frog with an umbrella, youngsters offering treats to their pets and Mother Teresa ministering to children.

Contributing to the projects are 35 students ages 5 to 14. Many of them accompanied Priya when she delivered the banner to the center Feb. 13.

She also is presenting one of her own paintings, which she calls “The Henna Crown,” depicting a woman with tattoos covering her bowed head as a symbol of the hair loss that many cancer patients must face.

“I thought I should give them something that represents beauty and courage,” she said.

As is the case with practically everyone, she has friends who have battled cancer, including one whose treatment did result in her losing her hair.

“I was with her throughout her journey,” Priya said. “She had to take chemotherapy for six months, and every day, she used to send me her picture.”

The kindness project is part of her efforts to reach out into the community. In December, her students made special creations for holidays, including Christmas cards for senior citizens, and she has plans for similar efforts as the year progresses.

In the meantime, she wants to do what she can for cancer patients.

“We can’t do anything about the disease or the intensity, but we can help them recover, be with them and support them,” she said. “If these kids’ artwork makes at least one patient smile, we all are winners.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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