Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is the primary beneficiary of the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest – SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s signature fundraiser – so it is very fitting for the hospital’s young patients to be a part of this amazing event, and that is what the Child Artist program is all about!

This year’s 2017 Child Artists, Leo and Lola Grabinski, are twins who were born 13 weeks early on July 26, 2011. As newborns, they spent the first 98 days of their lives in the Golisano Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Born weighing just a little over two pounds, a fourth of what the average full-term baby weighs at birth, the twins have an amazing story of survival, which includes the NICU team at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Now five years old, the Child Artists worked with art mentor, Jolie Black, to create a one-of-a-kind abstract painting, which will be auctioned off during the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest Live Auction on Feb. 25, 2017. Their collaborative artwork features a stylized outline of their bodies and handprints in vibrant tones of red, blue and green. An energetic depiction of two survivors who are truly just beginning their journey in life, the abstract painting is vibrant and full of promise for the children’s future, which is indeed bright. According to their dad, Matthew Grabinski, both children are happy, healthy and developmentally on track with children their age.

Leo and Lola had the unique opportunity to work with artist Jolie Black during her first year as art mentor for SWFL Children’s Charities’ Child Artist program. Also the mother 2015 Child Artist Sophia Black, a cancer survivor, Jolie understands the program’s power to help transform trauma into triumph. She started her journey as a mentor last year, working with the 2016 Child Artist, Avery McCaskill, alongside veteran art mentor, Ellen Sheppard, who is now retired. Joelene looks forward to seeing the Grabinski twin’s art auctioned at the 2017 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, a two-day event, which culminates with the Live Auction on Feb. 25, 2017.

“It’s a wonderful moment for children as their art is celebrated and their stories of struggle and survival are shared. Tears flow, paddles are raised and attendees give graciously to support the patients of Golisano Children’s Hospital. It’s a beautiful thing!”

The child artist program has raised more than $1 million over 11 years to benefit pediatric care at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, the only children’s hospital to serve the five-county region. Bids for the artwork will start at $5,000, and last year’s child art raised $145,000. Traditionally, the works are then donated back to the hospital, where they are displayed for patients, families, visitors and staff to enjoy.

“Art is therapeutic, and painting allows the children to express themselves, as well as to enjoy themselves,” said Black. “It’s truly an honor to share this experience with patients and families, and to support the program that brought so much joy to my daughter and family during a very difficult time.”

The SWFL Children’s Charities Inc.’s annual signature fundraiser, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, has raised more than $15.6 million over the past eight years, making it the most successful fundraising event in Lee County and one of the top-grossing wine fests in the country. Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is the primary beneficiary of the event, and the money raised helps to fund the building of the new family-centered children’s hospital that will provide new and expanded medical services and subspecialty services to children from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. In addition to providing funds for the new state-of-the-art Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, SWFL Children’s Charities Inc. supports health care programs at Florida SouthWestern State College and Florida Gulf Coast University. For more information, visit www.swflwinefest.org.