Artist Sean Vali happened to call the newsroom while I was working at night, when I answer the newsroom-wide phone line. We chatted about a story. And then I convinced him to donate art to benefit research that could save my son’s life.
Before he called, I was heading into panic mode. There is an Oct. 4 gala coming up for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I have been meaning to get something special together in honor of Eli to auction off at the gala. Well, we’re busier than ever and time’s a flyin’. Weeks ago I picked out a theme for a donation to the gala auction. The event is called Breath of Life. Well, the arts are breathing new life into the city of OKC, where the winds of change are blowin’. Breath of life, winds of change in the city – I needed art. Art for Eli! Oh, except I don’t know any artists. And it’s not like I hang out at bars, gallery events and hip cafes, or wherever artists gather!
Speaking of breath, my son and about 30,000 others in the US have a disease, cystic fibrosis. The reality of this disease is that it slowly robs those who have it of the ability to breath. Only about half of people with CF make it past 18. Thye CF Foundation has raised tens of millions of dollars in funds to support decades of research. The research gives families like mine hope that our children will live, that their lungs will not scar from infection, slowly taking the breath of life away. I don’t mean to be dramatic or gloomy, but this is the reality we with CF in the family live, every single day, even as we try hard not to think about it, and to just live and absorb every small, happy moment we can.
When Vali randomly called the newsroom that night, I Googled him while we were talking. He was an artist. ARTIST. My wheels started turning. Art…breath of life…breathing life into the city…the auction! I hadn’t heard of him before, but from what I saw, I loved his style. My wheels were turning and then my mouth was doin some fast talkin’. My son, his disease, this event, the research, your art – what do you think? I couldn’t believe he agreed so quickly to donate something. I got together an e-mail with all the details about Eli, CF, the foundation, its fundraising effort and the gala so he would be assured I wasn’t some weird scam artist.
I texted him and he texted me back super fast. We arranged to meet during an art event in an OKC neighborhood called the Plaza, where he has a studio. So we met, and he painted, and I got a piece for the gala. He’s a real live artist with his own studio making a living off of his work. This donation is a testament to his character and generosity.
Thank you Sean Vali. Eli and his CF friends thank you, too. This donation is so meaningful. Art is a beautiful thing. The world is a beautiful place. And we will cure this deadly disease. Good juju all around.
Here’s a vid and slideshow about my experience meeting up with Vali.
In the coming months, look for more from Sean Vali. He’s behind a movement called Okla Home Grown Art. He makes cool T-shirts, too.
Catch him on Instagram at @seanvali to see more of his unique work, which you need to buy and put on your wall right now!