Our art therapists are more than just dedicated - they are INVOLVED in this organization. When you find out more behind the people that work each day to help these brave kids, you will understand why Friends has been around for 27 years with the same passion and vigor that it took to launch it in 1992.
Mercy Children's Hospital:
Natasha Westrich Wood, MA, ATR-BC, Art Therapist
Natasha is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis with a double major in both Psychology and Art History and holds a Masters of Arts in Art Therapy from SIUE. She became interested in helping oncology patients after her dad and husband were diagnosed with cancer. During Natasha’s time in graduate school art therapy was still quite limited in hospitals, but thanks to one of her professors Natasha was able to create an internship at Barnes Hospital where she worked with adult bone marrow transplant patients. She was so moved by their journey with cancer and their feelings of isolation that she encouraged each patient to create a quilt square, which was later pieced together as one unified quilt. It continues to hang at Barnes to this day. From that point on Natasha knew she definitely wanted to work as an art therapist with cancer patients. Each morning she wakes up excited to go to work, feeling a strong desire to help cancer patients through their journey, knowing that art therapy is a powerful means of expression.
“I love working for Friends because I find myself constantly inspired by the children and teens going through treatment and it makes my heart so happy to see and hear firsthand all the joy that Friends brings them. Art from the Heart is one of my most favorite nights of the year. It is inspiring to see the patient artists share their stories through their art and feel empowered by the support of our community and I feel honored to be a part of this program for the past 21 years.”
When not at work you can find Natasha playing with Jabula (a women’s drumming circle), gardening, water skiing with her children, and hanging out with her rescue pets!
SSM Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Children's Hospital:
Briana McKee, MS, PLPC, Art Therapist
Briana is a graduate from Nazareth College in Rochester, New York where she earned a master’s degree in Creative Arts Therapy with a specialization in Art Therapy. Her background in Art Therapy encompasses a variety of treatment settings and ages but her roots are in the pediatric hospital setting. Briana was first introduced to pediatric art therapy during her Art Enrichment Internship at Saint Louis Children’s Hospital in 2015 where she interned under their Art Therapist. Briana worked with a variety of patients during her internship, including those with an oncology diagnosis. Though her Art Therapy experience consists of a number of diverse settings, her heart has always belonged in pediatrics. Briana’s drawn to the energy and playfulness of children, and how they let their imaginations run free. She also loves how willing they are to get a little messy, because sometimes this is where the real magic happens.
“FOKWC has a great mission that really resonated with me and drives my day-to-day work at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. Kids deserve to be kids, in any setting, and I really love that Friends of Kids with Cancer does all they can to ensure patients are able to enjoy their childhood. I feel so honored to join the kiddos on their journey and provide a safe and creative space where they can take a mental break from the hospital setting” -Briana
When not at work, you can often find Briana climbing rock walls in the St. Louis area, making art of her own, or snuggling her cats!
St. Louis Children's Hospital:
Daphne Dierks, PLPC, ATR, MA, Art Therapist
Daphne is a graduate from the Upper Iowa University where she received her Bachelors in Fine Arts and Psychology. Working with Pediatric Oncology patients has been Daphne’s dream job since day one! From a very young age, she saw herself as a helper and someone who understood the importance of speaking through art. Counseling seemed most conductive to Daphne’s values and life purpose. Daphne has worked with adults, adolescents, behavioral health, memory care, and school-based settings, but she was always drawn back to working with children in the hospital setting. The children she has met over the years has taught Daphne so much about community, strength, acceptance, and love; and she hopes to provide a portion of that caring and support during her time with each patient and family from here on forward.
“I feel privileged to work with some of the strongest kids I know. My time at St. Louis Children’s Hospital has taught me the importance of allowing these kids to share their stories and how best to practice positive coping in order to support treatment based needs. FOKWC has supported all the above mentioned goals and so much more! When I introduce myself and identify myself as a FOKWC Art Therapist, kids and families’ faces light up. It is apparent how much FOKWC has impacted these children’s day to day lives and I am honored to be able to support them further as their art therapist.” -Daphne
In her spare time, you can find Daphne sharing her Iowa pride with others, spending time outside, and painting/ drawing in nature.