Shannon Medical Center: San Angelo, TX

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SAN ANGELO STANDARD TIMES NEW ARTICLE:

SAN ANGELO, Texas — With a little help from a world-renowned artist, five local children helped raise more than $70,000 for two children’s charities.

About 75 people attended the Luis Sottil Art Auction and Cocktail Party at River Terrace Restaurant to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network and the Luis Sottil Foundation.

The foundation, formed to join the fight against terminal diseases in children, uses its Hearts of Hope program to bring healing and hope into children’s lives.

“The purpose of Hearts of Hope is to uplift spirits of children that have been affected by various forms of cancer,” Sottil said. “It is a magical transformation when a child is given the opportunity to open up their heart and express their emotions in color.”

Before the event, an invitation-only auction held Friday night, Sottil met with the children, who are patients at Shannon Hospital, and asked them to draw “the eyes and the smile of the person they want to be when they grow up.” Sottil then took the heart-shaped depictions of faces to his studio and added imagery of the child’s favorite animal, enhanced by his meeting with the child, as a framework around the heart.

The artist said San Angelo has always held a special place in his heart.

“I stumbled into San Angelo 23 years ago and stayed for six months,” he said. The technique for which he is now famous — naturalismo — was born “in a garage studio in Santa Rita,” he said.

“The thing that inspires me in San Angelo is its people,” Sottil said.

One of the child artists, 8-year-old Sebastian Mireles, who was a CMN Miracle Kid from 2009, said he painted the eyes and the smile of a chef.

“It’s a great idea,” he said, “so they can help children like me.”

Sebastian was diagnosed with cancer when he was 5. His mother, Tula Mireles, said that when he began chemotherapy treatments, the family had to travel to Fort Worth every two weeks.

Sebastian’s father, Oscar, said that Sebastian has grown with CMN and that the family has been able to take advantage of all that CMN has done for the children of San Angelo as more things become available, such as telemedicine facilities.

“We can have our doctor’s appointment via the television,” Tula said. “It’s incredible how the nurses do the checkup here, and the doctor in Fort Worth sees and hears everything.”

Sebastian has been cancer free for four months. “We’re glad this nightmare is ending,” Tula said.

Before the auction began, Sottil addressed the children: “You’re going to make an amazing difference by pouring your heart out. Other kids like you will have an opportunity to get better because of what you did.”

“They live a life of chemo and needles,” said Brian Merritt, vice president of the Luis Sottil Foundation. “Tonight they are like stars.”

Merritt said he was amazed by the generosity and love shown by the people in San Angelo. He said the proceeds from the five paintings done with the children’s art will benefit CMN, and proceeds raised by other paintings sold Friday night will be split between CMN and the Luis Sottil Foundation, which will buy medications for a pediatric hospital in Mexico.

When the auction was over, Sottil took the microphone and did something he called “fast cash.”

“Let’s raise some money for the kids,” he said. He told the audience that for every hundred dollars they donated, he would put their name in a raffle. The winner, he said, would get a painting from him, valued at about $25,000.

A pledging frenzy followed. Adam said several thousand dollars was bid during Sottil’s fast cash event, but the exact amount won’t be known until payments are received.

Final numbers are not yet available, but Sharla Adam, director for the Children’s Miracle Network, said, “At this point, we’ve raised over $74,000” for both charities.

Adam said the auction winner, Perry Henderson, bought two of the children’s paintings and is donating them to be displayed at Shannon.

“I am thrilled that we can keep Luis Sottil’s art and the children’s art at the hospital,” she said. “Hopefully people will learn about the Hearts of Hope program and want to get involved next year.”

Melinda Nolan, another auction winner, said she was there when the children painted their hearts.

“It was an affair of the heart for Hearts of Hope,” she said. “The children are an inspiration to all of us.”