It is not uncommon for a parent to take pride in their child’s artwork. But for adoptive mother Sarah Best, there are many reasons to proudly show off her daughter’s paintings. Aside from painting with her feet and toes in the absence of her arms, 4-year-old Minh’s love of creating art has become a way for her family to afford a one-of-a-kind experience at a camp designed with them in mind.
Camp No Limits is part of a nonprofit organization that provides camps for children with limb differences and limb loss, and their families. The goal of the camp is to educate, support and mentor these families in a welcoming atmosphere.
Sarah said she and her husband Justin were inspired to adopt a child with limb differences from their cousins, Nate and Alicia Smith, who have six children, four of whom have limb differences. Nate and Alicia invited the Best family to their first No Limits camp in Florida in January. Sarah said, with Minh only being 4, they hesitated at first, but they soon discovered that it was not a camp for just big or little kids.
“We watched her interacting with kids her own age and watching them play and laugh together — there were older kids, adults, camp leaders,” Sarah said. “The camp is not just for the child that is missing limbs — it’s for the whole family.”
Sarah said there were classes for parents and siblings, “loads of classes for kids,” and physical therapists and occupational therapists available to answer questions and assist with activities and daily tasks such as tying a ponytail or opening a banana.
With participants of all ages and many of the workers and volunteers having limb differences of their own, Sarah said the children were able to easily find an adult that could serve as a great model and example for them as well.
Most importantly, she loved the comforting atmosphere it provided for Minh who often has to make accommodations in daily tasks, like sitting on top of the dining room table and using her feet to feed herself.
“Several people were missing different limbs and using their feet and it’s not even weird — it was a relief almost in a way,” Sarah said, adding that it was if they said, “I have walked this before and I know what this feels like.”
Sarah said there is an application process that allows the camp to get to know each family and each camper, but “once you’re accepted, you are treated like family.”
The cost of the trip to the Best’s “home” camp in Missouri is $500 per person, plus travel expenses. With Missouri being a drivable distance, they do not have to worry about airfare. However, it will still cost $2,000 for their family of four to attend the camp that is being held June 2-5, so Sarah said she hopes to raise enough funds to pay for half the cost of the trip.
While the camp does offer scholarships, Sarah said, if they are awarded any scholarship money, they continue to try to raise money so another camper can go.
Sarah said 4-year-old Minh can now do stairs independently, is able to navigate playground equipment at the park and has almost figured out how to tie a shoe, she just has one more loop and a pull through. But Minh’s true love has always been art.
“With panting, we discovered almost immediately when she came home from Vietnam that she loved art,” Sarah said. “When we decided to do fundraising for camp, we thought she needs to participate in making funds because she is a camper — even if she is 4 years old.”
Minh and her mom have created a system, and while sometimes they paint all of the backgrounds at once, Minh typically paints the backgrounds and the designs while Sarah paints the edges. For special requests, of which they have gotten several, Sarah uses Google Image to find a design and then draws it out for Minh.
“I Google Image and then we talk about what colors we need,” Sarah said. “There’s a bunch of learning going on in this process. Sometimes, I show her on a scrap piece of paper first and then she does it. Once she sees the techniques, she learns them. She loves glitter, but she makes dots, butterflies, flowers and trees — she does a little bit of everything.”
Sarah said Minh paints as much as she wants to, and that there have been Saturdays she will paint for four hours straight and sometimes she will just paint a 4×4 canvas.
Minh has received requests for her unique artwork from people all over the United States, with several special requests and color specifications.
“Our goal is for them to be able to have a memento that is very unique, that is one of a kind, that is really all Minh,” Sarah said. “It’s a great conversation starter and it’s a great way to show others that she’s a can-do girl.”
Canvases vary in size with the smallest being 4-inch by 4-inch up to the largest being 16-inch by 20-inch.
Suggested donation prices are anywhere from $5 to $30.
“We’re blessed to have a good community that supports kids with disabilities here,” Sarah said. “It is a suggested donation price, but most people go above and beyond. We just appreciate people supporting her.”
For more examples of Minh’s work or to place an order visit her Facebook page or send a private message to Meeting Minh.