By Valerie Gibbons
(Quote) “During my long recovery from acute leukemia and transplantation, I began doing artwork to lift my spirits. These whimsical creations came about after I decoupaged garden magazine pictures onto a small four-legged wooden stool and, on a whim, put a pair of baby boots on it. I laughed out loud – the best therapy of all! Now, I would like to share them with others for the sheer joy of a laugh and a smile.”

I have lived in Rockford, Illinois most of my life. In 2007, at age 46, I underwent a bone marrow stem cell transplant for acute myeloid leukemia. Soon after, I developed chronic graft vs. host disease, an autoimmune disorder resulting from partial transplant rejection. One of the side effects was depletion of tears. In 2010, I was fitted for special prosthetic lenses to help restore my lost vision and minimize eye pain. That is when I began doing collage art for emotional therapy.

Since then, I have been on a mission of mirth to create and share my whimsical footstools with shoes. Each one is uniquely themed, colorfully detailed, and guaranteed to make you smile. In 2016, I started the FootsieStools Ambassador Program to bring the healing power of whimsy to hospitals and organizations serving others impacted by cancer. In 2017, I formed a 501c3 charitable organization to promote the arts for healing and therapeutic humor. By the end of 2019, the organization had reached nearly 3000 individuals across different sectors of health and social service as well as the general public. Our programs have expanded to exhibits, “sole” collage art/writing workshops, and speaker programs that serve anyone coping with a debilitating physical, mental, or emotional health condition.