Last Friday night our dear friends Ryan and Danielle from Ryan Renshaw Gallery had an event called Art for Eva to raise funds towards buying Eva a piece of equipment. It was such an amazing night! There were beautiful artworks of all kinds all over the gallery, there was delicious food and fancy wine, there were fantastic raffle prizes and most importantly there were a bunch of people all there to gather festively and celebrate all these things in the name of our little Eva.
Ryan's wife Danielle instigated Art for Eva back in 2010 not long after we became friends (we see eye to eye on many things but also physically standing at about 5'2" each!) and raised enough money for us to buy a standing frame and a supportive stroller. She's a dynamo with energy as electric as her big big heart. We weren't sure we would have an Art for Eva again especially since this year Danielle also organised her wedding. But with a very short time frame and a huge amount of help from gallery manager Pia Robinson, we did it.
Over 60 artists donated works that were all put up for sale with no name attached and for a fixed price. You would get to find out the artist name after buying it. There were some incredible pieces and some big name artists and many works that were clearly worth far more than the price tag. A couple of artists who donated works were too well-known to produce a work under thousands of dollars and their work was auctioned. Art-lovers descended (and lined up at the door) to buy beautiful art and in the process assist us in buying Eva an eye-tracking computer that will enable her to finally have a voice. But it's the artists themselves who deserve a massive and sincere thanks. Their generosity was overwhelming and walking around the empty gallery at the end of the night was testament to their beautiful works. And Ryan came up with a wonderful idea to bring the idea of giving and charity full circle: for the purchaser of the work to get in contact with the artist and donate something in return - a bottle of wine or time or something else. We know one person has already offered his PR experience in return for the art he received!
The night itself was quite simply a big buzz. We've heard from so many people that they had so much fun and felt a real sense of love and community whilst there. We had sponsors who fed and watered us with delicious cheese, salmon, olives, roast tomatoes and bread (thank you my dear gorgeous friends from SISCO bcl) and beer, cider, red and white wine (thank you Shannon and Spiros). Sponsors who helped (thank you Urban Art Projects!) and sponsors who donated big amounts of money (thank you Link at - Assistive Technology who are giving us a massive discount for the computer! and Bank of Queensland who so quickly offered financial support). We also had raffle prizes donated from a huge variety of sources who so willingly said yes when we asked for their support - what gems!
The tobii c-eye eye-tracking device is an incredibly expensive piece of equipment and something we thought would take us a very long time to acquire. But the Art for Eva has brought us incredibly close to raising the entire amount needed to buy the tobii C-15 and all the attachments required! This device was most likely originally designed for people with cerebral palsy or spinal cord injuries for whom communication is near impossible and they cannot use touch screens. But the international Rett community has found them perfect for many of our girls and women who can't sign, can't speak and can't use their hands to press buttons or screens. Eva may go cross-eyed sometimes but her gaze is the strongest communication she has and we have been using a very low-fi "talking stick" all this year. But a talking stick requires someone to hold it and someone to ask Eva the questions. And they always have to be closed questions that can be answered easily. The tobii computer will enable Eva to instigate and continue conversations and choose when she wants to speak rather than waiting for us to ask questions of her. I can hardly imagine how exciting this will be for Eva! Being able to ask for what she wants and to tell me what she doesn't want! But also how daunting, as it will be like learning a new language for all of us. It may take her some time but having this computer so soon will give her such a head-start.
I can't possibly express how grateful, blessed, excited and awed we feel to have this within our reach thanks to the generosity of our friends and community. So I'll leave a picture instead that says so much. I look at this and imagine all the things going through Eva's mind but thus far have never heard. To hear these one day will be a dream come true.