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Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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Carrollwood artist's hospital mural an inspiration to smile

CARROLLWOOD - Jason Hulfish and his paintings have been featured twice on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and on another network television series. But the professional artist's latest brush with greatness was in Brazil, where his murals brought color to a hospital where cleft-lip and palate surgeries are performed on children for free. The 42-year-old Carrollwood resident got involved after learning of Smile Train, the world's largest cleft charity, providing surgery and comprehensive care to hundreds of thousands of poor children in more than 80 developing countries. The artist responded to the contest the charity conducted with its Latin American partner hospitals, encouraging an increase in the number of free surgeries performed. Hulfish, who specializes in fantasy-themed murals for children's rooms, welcomed the chance to share his art with children in Brazil, a nation he previously had not visited.
"This is a pretty cool venture, and it's an important cause," Hulfish said after completing his 12-day, mid-July painting project at a charity-connected hospital in Lajeado, Brazil. His colorful floor-to-ceiling murals with a "smile" theme are intended to be inspirational. "The idea is to give the kids a little bit of hope, kids who haven't had the opportunity to smile," he said. "But when I do a project like this, it's more about the community than the actual project. It was a total group event," he said, explaining that patients, nurses, hospital staff, plus local business owners helped paint the murals. "We worked with the kids; they were super excited," said Hulfish, who grew up in St. Petersburg, graduated from Northeast High School there and attended the University of South Florida. Smile Train's focus is on solving a single problem: cleft lip and palate, a pervasive problem in developing countries. Millions of children in those nations have the condition. Most of them are unable to eat or speak properly, and often aren't allowed to attend school or hold a job, according to the New York City-based nonprofit group founded in 1999. In many developing nations, families can't afford the simple surgery, and children face lives of shame, isolation and pain, according to Smile Train. Hulfish, who has a 3,000-square-foot studio in Seminole Heights, said he would welcome another opportunity to help. "These kids wear the scar, and it's the type of charity where you can physically see the results, the transformation," he said. [email protected] (813) 259-07124
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