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Friday, September 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Health

Young patient makes colorful impression

6-year-old finds mentor, friend in local artist

Artist Christina Deubel is helping Gabby LeDuc, 6, create art for showing during the Spokane Visual Arts tour on Friday in downtown Spokane. (Dan Pelle)
Artist Christina Deubel is helping Gabby LeDuc, 6, create art for showing during the Spokane Visual Arts tour on Friday in downtown Spokane. (Dan Pelle)

It’s not difficult to guess Gabby LeDuc’s favorite color. On a recent afternoon in the kitchen at Ronald McDonald House, the 6-year-old wore a pair of fluffy purple boots that sparkled with sequins.

Gabby grinned. “I like purple and sparkly things.”

She also likes to paint. Her current work in progress, a brightly colored butterfly, sat propped on an easel in front of her.

Her painting partner, local artist Christina Deubel asked, “Do you think it needs more pink?”

Gabby nodded and carefully outlined the butterfly wings in brilliant fuchsia. Then she said. “That’s beautiful.”

Thanks to Deubel, Gabby will be showing her art at the Liberty Building this weekend during the Spokane Visual Arts Tour. The Friday night artists reception will also serve as a fundraiser for the LeDuc family.

Gabby has been staying at Ronald McDonald House since she was diagnosed with leukemia in May. The diagnosis was so sudden and severe, Gabby and her mother, Kathy LeDuc, arrived in Spokane from Kalispell with just the clothes on their backs.

When Deubel saw a news report featuring the girl she said, “Something clicked. They showed one of Gabby’s paintings, and I just wanted to paint with her.”

She reached out to Kathy LeDuc through Facebook. The offer came at a perfect time. Gabby had started painting while undergoing treatment at Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital and was eager to continue her artistic endeavors.

Gabby proudly showed her first painting, a school of colorful fish in a deep blue sea. “It’s my favorite, ’cause I like all the things I put on it,” she said, pointing to foam cutouts and swaths of sparkly paint. “I worked on it all day!”

Before Deubel met with Gabby she contacted Spokane Art Supply to see if they’d be willing to donate a few supplies. “They donated an easel, a starter kit with top quality paints, canvas, brushes, colored pencils, sketch books,” Deubel said. “They just blew me away.”

With fingers liberally spattered with paint, Gabby showed off a picture of two owls perched on a tree branch. Pointing to a yellow glow gleaming from a hole in the tree, she explained, “There’s a sparkly light in there, so the owls can see.”

While Deubel has offered Gabby artistic expertise and companionship, the 6-year-old has also enriched the artist. “Gabby was the inspiration for the Liberty Building to get involved with the Spokane Visual Arts Tour,” Deubel said. “I wanted to come up with a way the arts community could give back to her.”

As the art curator for Sante and the Liberty Building, Deubel organized a show of Gabby’s paintings at Auntie’s Bookstore on Friday. More than 10 additional artists will also be displaying their work. Live music has been underwritten by Global Credit Union. Auntie’s and participating artists are donating a portion of their proceeds to the LeDuc family.

“It kind of just all came together,” said Deubel.

However, Gabby’s paintings aren’t for sale. Kathy LeDuc clutched the fish canvas close to her chest and said, “Mommy is very attached to the paintings.”

Gabby nodded. “Because they are so pretty. Then she glanced at Deubel. “I can make more fish for Christina.”

The paintings mark a bright spot in what has been an arduous journey for the family. Recent rounds of chemotherapy weakened Gabby and left her with mouth sores. Her once-long locks have been reduced to a fluffy blond crew cut. When her hair began falling out in clumps, her mom scheduled a “Locks of Love” party and got her own long hair cut, too.

“I was afraid I’d get a scrape from the razor,” Gabby admitted. “But I didn’t!”

LeDuc said, “It isn’t always fun for her. She’s been through a lot.”

However, there is good news. LeDuc said Gabby has a 95 percent chance of full recovery, and next week they hope to return home to Kalispell.

The opportunity to be part of the Spokane Visual Arts Tour has been an unexpected blessing for the family. “I think in this whole experience I’ve learned to appreciate the little things in life,” LeDuc said.

And one of those little things has been seeing her daughter’s artistic talents blossom.

Gabby glanced down at her purple boots, and then smiled across the table at her new friend and said, “I like painting with Christina.”

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