May5-2015-sm-UpperWest-Hark-CINCO-DE-MAYO-Final-FlyerVolunteers are the heroes of this world. They reach out to help those in need, never expecting to receive anything back. I am always honored to meet every day people who give their time to a cause they truly believe in.

I have also witnessed Upper West Restaurant’s generousity to various nonprofit organizations. Once again it will host a charity event and donate thirty percent of all sales on Cinco De Mayo (5-10pm) to HARK, Healing Arts Reaching Kids, an affiliate of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

These past couple of weeks, I have been touched by the stories of the volunteers of HARK. 

President Laurie Hutton explained that the workshops run from April through October as to not to coincide with flu season. Children from all wards of the hospital are invited to attend, which often sparks friendships and new beginnings for many who are uncertain of what is to come. When children are too ill to leave their beds, HARK volunteers will come to them, bringing supplies and a smile.

May5-2015small-UpperWest-HARK1Photo by Susan Londoner

Hutton has been a volunteer in some capacity most of her life. In fact she first volunteered for Children’s Hospital in 1980. She took some time off to raise her family and came back nine years ago. “I get as much from volunteering as the people who benefit from me helping. I did not know I could feel so much love.”

Marsha Purcell was Recording Secretary of HARK and past President tells the story of a boy who painted an abstract Picasso inspired work of art. “His mother sitting next to him couldn’t believe it. He has been in and out of CHLA for years and since he was very young he had tremors in his hand and here he was painting lines!!! And it was a beautiful painting.”

Perhaps the story that most hit me was from HARK’s founder Karen Sweeney.  

See image of Karen SweenMay5-2015-sm-UpperWest-Hark4ey teaching a workshop.

“I was requested to go up to the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. The patient was a little girl whose bone marrow transplant was rejected. She wanted to make a birthday gift for her mother. I arrived a saw through the double glass walls a very frail little girl. She was too weak to walk and had very little strength. I helped her with this little box to decorate for her mother’s birthday. I realized that was going to be the last thing that her mother would have from her little daughter. She passed the following week…”

Finally, here’s Tod Lychkoff’s experience. “I am an artist who came to HARK with the intention of bringing comfort to some of the patients at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. One of my first experiences confronted me with a fear I had going into this. Would I be able to handle the emotional consequences of interacting with a very sick child? This fear had been pushed aside, until a very sick little girl was wheeled to my side by her attendants. All I could do was make a conscious effort not to look at all the outward signs of her illness. I wMay5-2015-sm-UpperWest-Hark5as stuck until she looked up to me and said with passion, ‘I’m a good artist but I want you to teach me how to paint.’ Over the next hour or so I experienced first hand what we all know. The human spirit is separate from its shell. The child had a strength and vitality for life that inspired me to ‘get over myself.’ She was a stud! I thought, ‘If this little one can handle what she’s going through I can handle teaching her how to paint!’ After attending numerous workshops, now, I have witnessed the power art has to bring people to a happier place. The volunteers that I have the pleasure of associating with are (not surprisingly), a special breed that encourages families to make art together, perhaps something they may never have done otherwise. You can feel the patient light up and see the delight of siblings and parents who are comforted by this. Bringing about relief, through the arts, is something I am grateful to be a part of.”

Join me to salute all the volunteers and offer support for the kids of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles by giving back to a wonderful organization on Tuesday May 5th – Cinco De Mayo at Upper West Restaurant.

To find out more about HARK, visit the website at

What: HARK Fundraiser
Where: Upper West,  3321 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica
When: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Phone: 310.586.1111