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Former Cancer Patient Collaborates with Art Teachers, Students to Spruce up Cancer Center Landscape

From Carteret News Times, by Cheryl Burke

When Newport Middle School physical education teacher Katrina Smith was diagnosed with appendix cancer in February 2022, she received six months of chemotherapy at the Raab Clinic at Carteret Health Care.

While lying on the clinic bed to receive her treatments, which could last up to six hours, she noticed there were blank brick walls and a bleak landscape outside the windows.
“When I was staring out the windows I just saw empty branches of a plant. It was a very bleak view. There’s only so much streaming on your phone and TV you can watch,” she said June 6. “Sometimes I just wanted to zone out and look out the window.”

That’s when she came up with an idea to help the hospital spruce up the area with colorful banners created by local artists and students. The first 2-foot by 5-foot vinyl banners were hung on the walls in May, and she is looking for more artists to get involved. She has space to hang three banners each rotation.

“My idea is to have seasonal banners that I can switch out throughout the year,” she said. “If artists are interested, they can contact me and I will provide them a banner (and paint if needed).”

When Smith came up with the concept, she approached Virginia Cuthrell, executive director of the Carteret Health Care Foundation, who embraced the project. So did the hospital’s engineering director, who decided to enhance the area with large planters, flowers, trees and bird houses.

“It does create a prettier space for cancer patients receiving treatments,” Cuthrell said June 7. “We are trying to put items out here that will attract birds and butterflies.”
Cuthrell thanked Smith and all the artists and students who are willing to help create banners.

“It is exactly who Katrina is. She is so kind and community oriented. It doesn’t surprise me at all that she came up with this idea,” she said. “We appreciate her helping our patients at Carteret Health Care.”

Once Smith got the go-ahead, she sought advice from local artist Jimmy Craig Womble on what type of paint and banner would be best. She then reached out to art teachers at area schools.

“I wanted to try and collaborate with schools and art programs here,” she said.
So far eight schools have responded. She further got the idea to expand the offering to all local artists and art groups.

“I wanted to see if there were artists or art groups that would like to do this annually,” she said. “I know there are a lot of artists out there, and they can paint anything they like.”
So far, she has had art teachers and students working on about 20 banners.
Newport Middle School art teacher Brian Wright is among those creating a banner, with help from students.

“I have a personal stake in this,” he said. “I lost my father to cancer in 2012, and the therapy was really hard. So anything I can do to give patients peace of mind or lift their spirits, I want to help.”

Smith said to fund her project, she used money that was raised by the West Carteret High School softball team after she was diagnosed with cancer. She has supplemented the project with her own money.

Cuthrell added that the hospital foundation can help with the cost for banners and supplies as well.

Smith said artists interested in helping with the project can contact her and she will arrange a time to provide them a banner. They should call her at 252-342-8976.

Those interested in donating to the Carteret Health Care Foundation to help with the project can donate online at They can also mail checks to CHC Foundation, 3500 Arendell Street, Morehead City, NC 28557. Checks can be earmarked for the banner project.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.