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4-H project brings artistic joy to kids

Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services dani_art_banner.jpg
Dani McTague created a 4-H service project that allows her to share her love of art with others. Her project, Dani’s Dream – Sharing the Love of Art, provides paints, colored pencils, paints and other items to children who may not otherwise have access to art supplies.
Dani McTague provides paints, colored pencils, paints and other items to children who may not otherwise have access to art supplies.

When Dani McTague started taking art lessons at the age of 5, she didn’t know how much her love of art would impact others. Wanting to share her passion, the Pontotoc County 4-H’er developed a service project called Dani’s Dream – Sharing the Love of Art.

She puts together art bags to donate to children who may not otherwise have access to art supplies. The bags contain one big art project along with stickers, paints, colored pencils, card-making supplies, scissors and other items. No two bags are alike.

Becky Walker, Pontotoc County 4-H Youth Development educator with Oklahoma State University Extension, said she saw a similar project online and immediately thought of Dani.

“Dani loves arts and crafts, and this was a great fit for her,” Walker said. “My job as a 4-H educator is to guide them in their project work. When I know they’re passionate about something, it just goes from there. Community service is a big component of what we do in 4-H, and this project has been a great one for Dani.”

Once Walker introduced the concept to Dani, she was hooked.

“I got really excited when Becky told me about this. I started gathering up my own art supplies to donate right away,” Dani said. “I made three bags and then I ran out of supplies.”

With the help of her mom, Jayme, Dani created a Facebook page and developed an Amazon wish list to advertise her project to hopefully get some donations to create more art bags. To date, people from 32 states have donated supplies or made monetary donations. Dani posts pictures of the items she purchases and of the bags she donates on her Facebook page to keep those donors aware of how the project is progressing. She also makes a thank you card to send to each donor.

Once she started receiving donations, it was time to get organized. Dani started the art bag project using zipper storage bags but has since moved on to reusable cloth totes she and her grandmother make together. JOANNÔ Fabrics and Crafts stores generously donate fabric for the bags. In addition, Dani and Jayme scour stores for discounted art supplies, especially following a holiday when themed items are 90% off the regular price.

“I never thought my project would get this big,” Dani said. “When I first started, my goal was to donate 100 bags. In just over two years, I’ve been able to donate 500 bags, thanks to everyone who has donated supplies or sent money for us to buy more things.”

She now has her sights set on donating 1,000 art bags. The bags are distributed to places like the Ronald McDonald House, Unity Point Counseling and Resource Center and OK Kids Korral, which is part of the Toby Keith Foundation.

“She even had a teacher from Arkansas contact us and ask for bags for her entire class,” Jayme said.

Tracy Whitacre, guest and volunteer coordinator with the Toby Keith Foundation, said the art bags Dani donated to children going through cancer treatments have been greatly appreciated.

“I see the kids using the art supplies and enjoy watching them have a good time,” Whitacre said. “The bags are great for the children. The art supplies give them something to do and help take their mind off their treatment.”

Dani has donated 25 bags to the foundation with plans to donate more during the holiday season.

Walker said not only is Dani doing a great job with her project, but she’s also developing skills she’ll use for the rest of her life.

“Dani made a display about her project, so she’s working on her public speaking skills. She leads an art project at all of our 4-H club meetings, which helps in building her leadership skills. She also works with our Cloverbuds and helps 4-H’ers with their county fair projects,” Walker said. “She’s pretty humble, but she’s a good role model by her actions. Her desire to help others says a lot about who she is.”

Dani agrees that there’s much more than art involved in this successful service project.

“This has helped me become less shy because I have to talk to people about my project. I think I’m more confident than I was two years ago when this started,” Dani said. “It has also helped me become more creative, and I can’t wait to donate more bags and bring joy to more people.”

For more information about the 4-H Youth Development program, contact the local OSU Extension county office.

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