Local woman uses art to brighten lives of seniors, patients

By: Nick Mordowanec | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published July 24, 2020

 Mary McGaughy, 27, of Harrison Township, sits on the sidewalk in front of McLaren Macomb Hospital, where in the past couple months she has spent time drawing for patients and visitors. 

Mary McGaughy, 27, of Harrison Township, sits on the sidewalk in front of McLaren Macomb Hospital, where in the past couple months she has spent time drawing for patients and visitors. 

Photo provided by Mary McGaughy

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — If art is a form of hope, Harrison Township resident Mary McGaughy has been instilling plenty of it in recent months for some of society’s most vulnerable people.

McGaughy, 27, studies human resources at Macomb Community College and is a cook at McLaren Macomb Hospital. In her free time, she enjoys giving back to the community, which she has done for seniors the past seven years — and, more recently, raising spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It started when she worked at American House East, in Roseville, and would write orders for the food menu. She drew caricatures of classic cartoons and movie characters, including Rocky and Bullwinkle, Tom and Jerry, Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh,” and the genie from “Aladdin.”

“It started out with cute little doodles to make (seniors) laugh,” she said. “I noticed that the seniors really looked forward to checking out the cartoons. … Everything just fell into place. It started small and simple, and I saw how rewarding it was.”

She later moved to Meadows Assisted Living and Care Campus, on North Avenue in Mount Clemens. Her friend there is a culinary director and mentioned raising seniors’ spirits with hand-written letters in their mailboxes.

“I said, ‘Hey, I can draw them each a cartoon,’” McGaughy said. “It could spark a memory and some joy.”

Some of the seniors have dementia, so drawings take them back into the past. Many of them even have requests for characters, such as Tinkerbell.

“I feel like it helps ground them, to make them feel like they have a place,” McGaughy said.

Drawing has been part of her life dating back to the seventh grade, when her art instructor taught her to graph pictures. When she began working as a waitress, she drew pages for kids to color with crayons.

Sticking to the vintage theme of classic characters causing people to reminisce and remember how they grew up, she said, “I would see the spark in their eyes,” she said.

She wanted to provide the community a spark in a different way. This June, due to the pandemic, she began drawing on the sidewalk in front of McLaren Macomb, near the new construction. It’s not only for visitors, but the patients themselves to observe.

While she was unable to draw when visitation was stricter, she recently stated she will return to the sidewalk and provide a glimmer of hope to those who need it.

“This is just something that I do for fun,” she said.

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