Kirathon 2009

Kira Arney learned that she had a malignant brain tumor on her first day of sixth grade at Highcrest Middle School in 2004. This launched her into surgery and a life consumed by radiation, chemotherapy, transfusions and transplants.

“Suddenly Kira had no control over her life,” her mother Katie Arney laments.

Fortunately, her doctors at Children’s Memorial prescribed regular art therapy with an Art Institute graduate student.

“That was the one snippet of time during her day that Kira could control,” Arney explains. “She chose her medium and her intentions. … It helped heal her spirit.”

Though Kira tragically lost her battle with cancer in July of 2006 at age 13, her family is still using art therapy to cope with their grief.

Now, growing art therapy treatment for seriously ill children has become a rallying point for the community through Kirathon.

Soon after Kira’s death, her younger sister, Hannah, devised an art therapy fundraising plan for a fifth grade math project. Two years later, Hannah’s Wilmette Junior High School homeroom, led by teacher Eric Senne, adopted it as their community service project.

Thus Kirathon was born. It will take place in Mallinkrodt Park on Friday, May 29 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and it will help Children’s Memorial Hospital provide more art therapy to patients like Kira in the future.

Amazingly, official planning for Kirathon began less than three months ago, with just one class. It quickly blossomed into a township-wide fundraising movement.

“The response from the kids and from the community has been nothing short of miraculous,” Senne enthuses.

Teams immediately formed at every Wilmette school that Kira attended as well as at New Trier High, in local sports clubs, churches and at Winnetka’s Hubbard Woods school, where a third grader was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Families and friends have formed teams, too.

With two weeks before the event, the Kirathon Web site,, showed that more than 75 teams already had raised more than $37,000 in total.

Bake sales, car washes, lemonade stands and canning by students at local shops have contributed as well.

“This morning a girl from our church called to say that her Kirathon garage sale just earned over $700,” Arney grinned.

“That’s a lot of old toys.”

Bobtail Ice Cream even created a Kirathon flavor, Blueberry Pomegranate, and $1 for each scoop will be donated to the walkathon. The flavor is purposely purple; that was Kira’s favorite color.

Arney’s goal for the actual walkathon is 1,000 people walking 12 laps each. This would equal the 12,000 children being treated at Children’s Memorial each month.

“My long-term hope is that all parts of the hospital are touched by art therapists, too, not just the cancer ward,” she explains.

In the meantime, Arney wants our community to know, “All these kids are really making a difference. This helps keep Kira’s memory alive and will put smiles on other kids’ faces because they will be able to work with art therapists, too.”

You can join the Kirathon movement by registering here or by bidding on the chance to have a Chicago Bear visit your child’s classroom in our Charity Auction.

To learn more about Art Therapy and Children’s Memorial Hospital, check out these links:

Children’s Memorial Hospital:

Kids’ Advisory Board:

About the Kirathon:

Complimentary and Alternative Medicine at CMH;

Donate money or join the Kirathon movement: