Thrive by IU Health

April 26, 2024

Philanthropy-funded murals offer deep meaning for patients and caregivers at Schwarz Cancer Center

IU Health North Hospital

Philanthropy-funded murals offer deep meaning for patients and caregivers at Schwarz Cancer Center

“When a patient completes a journey through cancer treatment, they’ve gotten through something very hard. That’s not just their success,” says Ann Bredensteiner, manager of integrative health and supportive care at IU Health Joe and Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center. “It’s also the success of their family, their caregivers, and all the people who worked so hard to get them to that point. They’ve also left a lasting impression on our hearts.”

To capture those impressions, patients at Schwarz Cancer Center have a new way to celebrate the completion of their journeys through radiation treatment. Schwarz Cancer Center team members tapped local visual artist, Skye Smith to create a series of five similar paintings of trees. Smith’s trees start off with bare branches. Over time, patients will add thumbprint leaves marking the completion of their treatment at Schwarz Cancer Center. Donors to IU Health Foundation contributed the funds for the murals.

“I love that this project will continue to evolve,” Smith said. “It’s such a collaborative artwork. There’s something magical about being able to tangibly mark the end of a treatment and the beginning of a new chapter. When patients put their fingerprints on the trees, I hope they see and feel a sense of connection with patients who came before them.”

Erica Pitcock, supervisor of radiation oncology at Schwarz Cancer Center, first shared the idea for the trees after she saw something similar at another cancer center. Bredensteiner took the idea and ran with it.

“I knew we had some funding available through the Foundation,” Bredensteiner said. “I ran the idea past Senior Development Officer Leigh-Ann Erickson. She thought it would be a great use of the funds and encouraged me to pursue the project.”

Schwarz Cancer Center team members were the first to add their prints to the trees.

“We call them our trees of hope,” Pitcock said. “They help show patients they’re not alone. They represent community and teamwork. Our hope is five to 10 years from now the hallways will be filled with completed trees and we can keep the tradition going.”

“Donors don’t have to give a huge amount of money to make a big difference,” Bredensteiner said. “All resources that come through IU Health Foundation are used to take care of patients in ways we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do. This art can uplift someone’s mental health and provide hope at the end of their journey to leave that mark on the wall. I’d say that’s just as important as a clinical outcome, in many ways.”

To join donors supporting patients at Schwarz Cancer Center, contact Leigh-Ann Erickson at or make a gift on the IU Health Foundation website by selecting IU Health North Hospital in the location field and selecting Schwarz Cancer Fund in the dropdown asking where to direct your gift.