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Retired art teacher using art to help children, victims of the Santiam Canyon fire

When Marilyn Joyce heard about the wildfire that swept through the Santiam Canyon, she wanted to do something to help.

PORTLAND, Ore. — People are stepping up in so many ways to help the families that were affected by the wildfires.

But there are some people who are using art and creativity to hopefully help the healing process.

Marilyn Joyce is a retired high school art teacher living in Portland. When she saw what was happening in the Santiam Canyon, she wanted to help.

“I’m a native Oregonian and it all just struck my heart so deeply,” said Joyce.

“I just had this bolt of lightning that came through. 'How can I help? What could contribute to healing?'” she said.

So, she contacted the Santiam Canyon School District with an idea.

“The goal is to have a sketchbook for each student and also an art tool of some sort,” said Joyce.

She started a GoFundMe with her goal being $5,500. As of last check, she was close to reaching that goal. The idea is that the sketchbooks will be a creative outlet to draw or write in that may help kids and their families heal.

“There’s no right or wrong. It’s just that place that belongs to them, those blank pages,” Joyce said.

“I don’t know her, but I love her. I think it’s fantastic,” said Jill Bird, who lives in Mill City.

“I love that she’s doing it specially for the Santiam Canyon. This is an underserved area as far as any sort of resources, or things like that,” Bird said.

Bird manages the Santiam Outreach Community Center in Mill City. She knows people need help in more ways than just the basic physical needs.

“I lived through the fires. I live here in the Santiam Canyon. I had to be evacuated and it was terrifying, and people have experienced that trauma on top of all this isolation from COVID and what not. It’s been a very trying time up here,” said Bird.

As a state-certified peer support and wellness specialist, she’s also aware of how important a creative outlet can be. She and others run Zoom classes on art and creativity.

“It’s self-care. It’s a coping mechanism,” Bird said.

“It’s such a soothing thing to just be able to doodle.”

Joyce said she’s hopeful the sketchbooks will be a reminder of support for the families in the Santiam Canyon.

She said the hope is to have sketchbooks to kids in the Santiam Canyon School District before Thanksgiving.