Splashes of Hope uses art to brighten up Long Island burn units, treatment centers and more

KINGS PARK, NY — Traumatic brain injuries can be life changing, but at a Suffolk County rehabilitation center, something special is creating hope.

Ann-Marie Chang wiped away tears as she and her husband, Tom, watched their son, Ethan, who has special needs, create magic.

“Joy and pride. He’s been through a lot in his life,” Ann-Marie Chang told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Ethan helps others despite his medical setbacks.

“When we found out he had a form of lipodystrophy when he was young, it was really difficult. We didn’t know where it was going to take us,” said Tom Chang.

That’s when volunteers with brushes and paints entered the Chang’s home on Long Island.

“After Ethan got a Make-A-Wish grant, we met with Splashes of Hope, and they painted a mural for his bedroom,” Tom Chang said.

“As artists, it’s our duty to do something to help others,” said Splashes of Hope founder Heather Brugee.

Brugee and her husband, Jimmy Knapp, founded Splashes of Hope. They and dozens of volunteers, like Ethan, are changing lives.

Quogue owner Judy McDermott says her husband Jim’s eyes light up as he watches the mural go up inside the brain trauma rehabilitation center at St. Johnland Nursing Center in Kings Park.

“Happy, happy emotions,” she said.

Jim, an outdoor enthusiast and active grandfather, fell down the stairs and their lives changed in an instant. They bonded with the Chang family as Ethan helped raise funds to make the project possible.

“Baking sales, lemonade sales, raffles,” Ethan said.

“It goes a long way. We are very lucky to be the chosen facility,” said St. Johnland Administrator Nicolas Destinville.

For 25 years, the nonprofit has splashed onto the walls of burn units, treatment centers and camps for the disabled, thanks to individual and foundation donors and volunteers.

“I feel like it shows that if other people can try, they can do pretty much anything,” Ethan said.

“It fills my heart to know that he is going through hardships and that does not stop him,” Ann-Marie Chang said.

“I was lucky to have the honor of painting such a mural here that can give them some hope,” Knapp said.

“They help me a lot in this mission,” said Ethan Chang.

A mission to help others, no matter their abilities.

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