Student’s passion for art therapy leads to Children's Hospital fundraiser

Amy Milgrub Marshall
November 12, 2014

Inspiration can be found anywhere, even in a young teenager. Just ask Casey Saline, a sophomore art education major who was inspired by a 13-year-old friend to launch the Lilli Project, a fundraiser to buy art supplies for children being treated at Pennsylvania hospitals.

Casey and Lilli are both from Emporium and met through Casey’s younger sister, Hanna. In 2013, Lilli was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that is rare in the United States. (It occurs more frequently in Africa, where 98 percent of the cases are associated with Epstein-Barr infection). When Casey asked Lilli if there was anything she could do to help her or make her feel better, she had a simple request: to provide art supplies for kids at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she was being treated. Lilli told Casey that patients used art to pass the time and express their feelings, but paint, paper, colored pencils and other materials were hard to come by.

Lilli, a young cancer patient

Lilli, who suffers from Burkitt lymphoma, inspired art education major Casey Saline to launch the Lilli Project, an effort to collect art supplies for children in Pennsylvania hospitals.

IMAGE: Penn State

“Her passion for helping other patients, even though she was going through a tough time, really inspired me,” said Casey. “We want to give children dealing with serious illnesses the opportunity to smile and have fun, and to create a happier atmosphere for them.”

Casey launched the Lilli Project in early November as a service project for the Penn State student chapter of the Pennsylvania Art Education Association (PAEA), of which she is president. On Nov. 18 and 20 at the HUB-Robeson Center, the PAEA chapter will be selling lilies for $1, with the opportunity to write a note for a young patient that Casey will distribute when she drops off art supplies. There will be boxes available for art supply donations.

Casey, who plans to pursue a career as an art therapist, discovered herself how therapeutic art can be while she was in high school and began to create two-dimensional portraits of celebrities using cassette tape ribbon. (She has sold several of those portraits to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum). “That is where my love for art started. When I realized how therapeutic art was for me, I became extremely interested in how art can help others as well.”

Casey has already applied for and received funding for research on how creating art can help members of the military, which she conducted at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “I got to interview the head creative arts therapist as well as go into patients’ rooms and create art with them,” Casey said. She is now publishing her research in order to raise awareness of art therapy.

“I believe that art is such a powerful asset when it comes to healing,” said Casey, who has observed how art has helped her sister Hanna deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. “I see daily how art and doing her makeup helps her through her troubles. It’s another reason for my passion for art therapy,” she explained, noting she has worked on art projects with her sister for specific therapeutic reasons, where they examined her stressors and what helps her deal with them.

Casey (left) and Hanna Saline

Art education major Casey Saline (left) has done art therapy with her sister, Hanna, and plans to pursue a career as an art therapist. She recently launched the Lilli Project, named for a young cancer patient and friend, to collect art supplies for children in Pennsylvania hospitals.

IMAGE: Penn State

According to Casey, art is powerful because it encourages freedom of expression. “You can express so many things visually that you may not be able to speak about. Rather than taking direct ownership of your thoughts and feelings, you can create an image and all you have to do is say, ‘This is what I created,’” Casey explained.

Casey is currently making final arrangements with the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to donate art supplies there. She hopes to expand to other hospitals and ultimately to bring art students into the hospitals to work directly with patients.

People interested in making a monetary donation should send checks made payable to Pennsylvania Art Education Association Student Chapter, with “Lilli Project” in the subject line, to 201 Vairo Blvd., State College, PA 16803. For more information, contact Casey at

Last Updated November 14, 2014