A stranger's mural raises money for woman waiting for double-lung transplant
Artist Andrew Walton helps patient Meghann Palmer with a mural about Woodstock's lost Island Park
With some cans of spray paint and a blank canvas, a Woodstock man is raising money for a total stranger — a stranger in need of a double-lung transplant.
Andrew Walton, 37, said he started painting a mural in downtown Woodstock because he wanted to liven up the town.
But his efforts have turned into a way to raise money for Meghann Palmer, a 35-year-old woman who needs a double-lung transplant. Palmer is also from Woodstock, but the two have never met.
"The town's a small place and I've heard several times that people have been really generous with support for her," Walton said.
"I just thought this is a nice way [to help], and you don't have to know someone to be good."
While working on the mural last week, Walton and his wife, Christy, came up with the idea of putting a poster next to the mural asking for donations for Palmer.
"We were looking to do some murals but because we'd heard of Meghann's situation and knew that it was really expensive, we were just thinking of a way to make it more effective," Walton said. "And two birds, one stone."
Palmer was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a child, and she knew that she'd one day need a lung transplant. She's been staying at an apartment near Toronto General Hospital since February, which has added to her stress.
"It's not easy," Palmer said, adding that everyday tasks such as getting dressed, showering and walking, can be difficult.
"It's expensive for one thing. It's hard to get around. I'm far from home. I don't really have the support system like I did at home, and I'm not feeling 100 per cent right now."
She said living in Toronto has cost her thousands in extra expenses, and she's not sure how long she will be there. The average wait for a double lung transplant is three to six months.
But the money raised by Walton and his mural is helping to pay for such basic necessities as housing, groceries and transportation, which has eased some of her worries.
I'd say, just the simple message, if you have something you can do to help somebody and you can do that, you should.- Andrew Walton, artist
"It's touching … there's been a lot of people that I don't know who have been raising funds for me behind the scenes and I don't always know about it and it's just great," Palmer said.
"It just alleviates a lot of stress on this end to know that there is a group of people at home that are busy working on at least managing the financial situation."
Along with the extra help, Palmer also appreciates that the mural reminds her of home.
"I've been enjoying seeing some of the walls being painted downtown, and then I saw that and it just felt so like Woodstock and the Maritimes, with the moose and the fiddleheads," she said.
The mural, which can be found on the side of a building on King Street, depicts Island Park, the former location of Woodstock's Old Home Week. Its features also include a ferris wheel, a circus tent and the St. John River.
Island Park was flooded when the Mactaquac Dam was built in 1968.
Although Walton doesn't know Palmer, he knew he could put his artistic abilities to good use.
"I'd say, just the simple message, if you have something you can do to help somebody and you can do that, you should," Walton said.
The artist has been working as a teacher in China, and while he's home for the summer, he wants to add more colour to the town.
"This is a nice release for me actually, so why not add a second value to that?" he asked.
"And lots of people could use the help, so I'm happy to do it."