Gina Rivera is a fourth grade teacher at William S. Talbot Elementary School in Gainesville, and although she teaches students in all subjects — from social studies to science — her lessons are not limited to the classroom.
Rivera has been the volunteer and family fun coordinator for Caleb’s Pitch, a local non-profit organization, for the past five years. She said the organization was founded in 2010 by Gainesville local, Tim Jacobbe, in memory of his 8-year-old nephew, Caleb Jacobbe, who passed away from cancer.
Now, Caleb’s Pitch plans hospital activities for children battling the same disease.
The most popular activity at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital is syringe painting, Rivera said. Children are given paint-filled syringes, which they then squeeze onto blank canvases.
She said the activity was inspired by Caleb, who enjoyed painting during his time at the hospital. Just three days before he passed away, Caleb painted 31 canvases for his family members and friends.
More than 1,000 paintings have been made by children with Caleb’s Pitch, and Rivera said the organization will continue the tradition in his memory.
Chris Brown, director of child life services at the hospital, said organizers also want to shine a positive light on syringes.
“Kids get to do something really fun with a piece of medical equipment. They get to turn (it) around and really use it in a fun way,” Brown said. “So, it really changes the whole experience for kids.”
Rivera said the most important aspect is being able to make the children happy.
“The most fantastic thing is seeing their faces. We get it from parents all the time,” Rivera said. “They tell us they haven’t smiled in days until they (see) the paint splatter on the canvas and then the smile automatically comes through.”
It’s an activity that keeps a smile on Rivera’s face as well.
“It doesn’t matter how busy I get or how stressful I’ve been,” she said. “If I end my day at the hospital, I always leave with a smile on my face.”
For more information on Caleb’s Pitch, visit the organization’s website at http://www.calebspitch.org.