On a recent morning at Valle Catholic High School, Aly Bauman and several other freshmen doodled away on their sketch pads during Free Draw Friday in William Palmer’s art class. The students listened to a CD of Eric Clapton playing the blues as they sketched with their Sharpies.
Art has played an important role in Aly’s life from an early age. The 14-year-old was born with a rare condition called Intestinal Lymphangiectasia, and Lymphatic Vascular Malformation in which the lymph vessels supplying the lining of the small intestine are blocked. The disorder is generally the result of improperly formed intestinal lymph vessels.
Aly turned to art as a way to pass the time as she received regular blood transfusions at the Bob Costas Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. “It helped me focus on something other than being sick,” she said. “I always thought it was a fun way to spend my time while at the hospital.”
Students and teachers at Valle Catholic in Ste. Genevieve have supported Aly and other patients through Aly’s Art Drive, which the Bauman family organized to collect art supplies and cash donations for the art therapy program at Cardinal Glennon. This is the 10th year for the drive, which averages about $15,000 in donations each year. Aly’s mom, Connie Bauman, suggested the idea to her daughter after she noticed how many art supplies Aly used during her regular visits to the hospital.
The art drive is just one way in which the school has been there for Aly and her family. Connie Bauman described the school, where Aly has been a student since Kindergarten, as a “tight-knit” community that looks out for one another. Teachers have helped Aly keep up with her classes. School families have offered meals and help with giving rides to her siblings as the family makes frequent trips to Cardinal Glennon in St. Louis. Students have made cards over the years, and even a banner for her hospital room at Cardinal Glennon after she returned from a major surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 2015. Teachers, students and staff also raised $4,000 to purchase two paintings Aly made for the Friends of Kids with Cancer Art from the Heart fundraiser at Cardinal Glennon.
“Valle has always been a great place for me,” Aly said. “It has been hard being sick for so long, but my teachers have helped me make it through each year. My mom says Valle is like having a whole group of moms with you all day to make sure you’re doing OK.”
Samer Zoughhaib, who teaches P.E. and health and coaches track and cross country, said that it’s not everyday that the school has somebody whom the whole community gets behind. “Aly is one of those people,” he said. “She’s truly a gift from God. To see how far she has come, just to be able to do what she’s doing now. I know her classmates embrace her. She is loved by all, she is taken care of by everybody. She’s such a nice young lady, that you want to do everything for her. And if you ask for any help, she’s one of the first people to come forward.”
Doctors told the family that Aly wasn’t expected to live to see her first birthday. She was on life support following her surgery in 2015. It certainly was a test of faith, her mother said. “I tell people that was the day it was time to stop praying for her to get better and to focus on God’s will for her,” Connie Bauman said. “I had to let go and make it about what God wants for her.”
Aly said that her Catholic faith has been important to her “because it gives you hope that things will get better. It’s really important when times are hard and you have really bad days. On bad days, my faith helps me know that things will get better and on good days, I know my faith in God has given me a good day.”
She also said being able to receive blessings and Communion from priests at Cardinal Glennon is a reminder that “my faith goes with me everywhere. Faith can’t be taken from you, because it is your personal relationship with God.”
>> Aly’s Art Drive
To make a donation to Aly’s Art Drive, checks may be sent to:
Aly’s Art Drive
21471 Highway 32
St. Genevieve, MO 63670
or search for Aly’s Art Drive wish list on Amazon.