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Blind youth paints picture of generosity

Jeff Hanson, 15, is a legally blind artist who has raised thousands of dollars
for charities from the sales of his cards and paintings.
A UMNS photo courtesy of Jeff Hanson.

By Andrew J. Schleicher*
June 11, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

At the age of 12, Jeff Hanson set up a booth at the end of his driveway to sell baked goods and greeting cards that he painted to raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

He has not stopped painting – or being a cheerful giver – since.

On July 23, the 15-year-old youth with an optic nerve tumor that makes him legally blind will hold his first solo art showing. Proceeds from sales at the event will go to the Lisa Barth Chapel at the Kansas City Children's Mercy Hospital and the Baphumelele Children's Home in Khayelitsha, South Africa. Jeff has given away thousands of dollars from sales of cards and paintings.

“They are always blown away and honored by the joy and generosity I've shared with them," Jeff said about the recipients of his gifts. Jeff’s gifts have in turn encouraged others to give.

Jeff’s pastor, the Rev. Adam Hamilton, features the teen’s story in his book: “Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity.”

Hamilton writes about when Jeff met Elton John in 2005 as Jeff’s wish with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Jeff handed Elton John a $1,000 check for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. A week later, the president of the Children’s Tumor Foundation called Jeff to let him know that Elton John had donated $5,000 in honor of Jeff. Jeff continues to have contact with Elton John.

Jeff takes a front row seat at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., where Hamilton’s preaching on the joy that can be found in generosity to others is a source of inspiration.

On his own, Jeff decided to sponsor a hole at the recent church golf outing in addition to his annual contribution of a painting for the church auction.

He also packs sack lunches for the homeless and participates in the church’s mug ministry of dropping a gift off at the homes of new visitors.

This sense of generosity has transformed his family. “How much is it costing us?” Jeff’s mom and manager, Julie Hanson, asked. “More than we should be spending." However, she has no regrets.

“Is it right?” she continued. “I think so. Is it scary? Yes it is.”

But the Hansons say they have found clear skies above the clouds of financial concerns. If the family of three on one income can go “way beyond their limits” to help the world, well, so can others.

Jeff said his role is making people happy.

“In my giving to the world,” he said, “it all comes back some way.”

For more information about Jeff and his work, visit www.jeffreyowenhanson.com.

*Schleicher is a writer, editor and communications consultant living in Nashville, Tennessee.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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