Artist Brightens St. Mary’s Home with Playful Paintings

Shirley Burnette with one of her paintings newly installed at St. Mary’s Home. 

By Chelsie Williams
marketing communications intern

Once-bare walls of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children now are lively with bright paintings by Virginia Beach artist Shirley Burnette. Each wing has a different theme, such as the seashore or flowers. Burnette visited the Home today to display her newest paintings, designed around a mermaid theme.

Before becoming an artist, Burnette was a visual manager at several department stores, working on window displays and flower arrangements, and shaping the stores’ overall atmosphere. During her time spent as a visual manager, she began painting murals for local businesses.

Burnette’s first mural was of the New York City skyline, for a diner in Virginia Beach. “After painting this mural I thought, ‘Hey, I could actually make this work,’ ” Burnette said about her realization that she had talent as a painter.

One of Burnette’s murals at the old St. Mary’s Home. (file photo)

She originally painted murals for St. Mary’s Home in the early 1990s, at its old location in downtown Norfolk. Ann Sparkman, St. Mary’s director of medical records, had called the store where Burnette was working at the time to ask whether the store could donate used displays. Burnette couldn’t donate the displays, but she offered to paint murals in her free time.

St. Mary’s moved to its current location about five years ago. Burnette recently volunteered her time and talent to decorate the halls. The parents of a child who used to live at St. Mary’s Home paid for the materials.

This time, Burnette is working on canvas. While the artwork has different themes, the paintings tie together through their playful style and vivid colors, which give the Home a more personal touch. Each painting is 3 feet by 3 feet – large enough so the children can easily see the colors and images. Burnette has decorated three wings of the Home so far and has plans to continue with a new jungle series.

For a look at more of Burnette’s paintings, see St. Mary’s Facebook page

Run, Swim, Run

“Take a bunch of athletes with hearts big to bursting, add in children & young adults with disabilities who couldn’t participate in a race on their own, throw in jogging strollers, inflatable boats, lots of planning and even more determination, and the result is magic.”

Click here to read more about last weekend’s Allen Stone Memorial Run Swim Run & 5K at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Three children from St. Mary’s Home participated in the race, and Kathy Brobst, a physical therapist assistant at St.  Mary’s, did a lovely job of capturing the race  in words and images. 

Save the Date to Attend Bioethics Day

Children’s Hospital of  The King’s Daughters and St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children will present Bioethics Day on Nov. 18, 2010:

Caught in the Middle:
Complex Relationships in Healthcare

Keynote Speaker: John F. Crowley, chairman & CEO of Amicus Therapeutics
Author of Chasing Miracles: The Crowley Family Journey of Strength, Hope and Joy, a memoir from the family that inspired the film Extraordinary Measures

   Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010

8 a.m.-2:45 p.m.
CHKD Brickhouse Auditorium
An electronic brochure to follow in the fall. Check the website or call 668-8246 for updates.


  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Values, attributes and accessibility patients and families expect of healthcare team
  • Impact of generational differences
  • Ethics of research
  • E-communication: risks, benefits, realities

  FREE Bonus

Join us to see and discuss the film “Extraordinary Measures” at the Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk, on Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 7:15 p.m. Register NOW here.

Presented by Kohl’s Cares for Kids Family Forum

Save the Date: Learn About GI Problems Related to Special Needs Children

Join us Friday, July 30, for the next installment of the new “Fifth Fridays at St. Mary’s Home” lecture series featuring physicians who work with St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. We’ve designed the series to raise awareness of issues affecting children with disabilities.

Dr. Marc Tsou, gastrointestinal specialist at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, will discuss “GI Problems Related to Special Needs Children.” The lecture will take place from 1-2 p.m. in St. Mary’s Atrium. It is free and open to the public.

RSVP to 757.622.2208 or see our website for more information.

In April, Dr. Larry White, a neurologist at CHKD,  inaugurated the “Fifth Fridays” series  lecture series with a discussion of  “Seizures in the Special Needs Child.”

You Can Help the Charity House Help the Children of St. Mary’s Home

A letter from our CEO … 

Dear Friends,

I am writing to you today on behalf of some of Virginia’s most medically fragile children. You can help improve the lives of the nearly 90 children and young adults who live, go to school and receive around-the-clock care at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children in Norfolk.

This summer, Scott Crumley of Crumley Group, Inc., is building the Tidewater Builders Association’s  Charity House for the 2010 Fall Homearama in Norfolk’s East Beach community. All proceeds from the sale of the house will go to St. Mary’s Home, a nonprofit organization that has been caring for children for 65 years.

Your donation of services, material, furnishings or equipment will help offset the cost of building the Charity House. That means more money from the sale of the beautiful Charity House will go to the children, to make their home at St. Mary’s more beautiful, more inviting and more personal.

For Greg, at left, we’ll redecorate his bedroom to reflect his love of cars and also get him involved in car club activities in the community.

For Brandon, right, who tries so hard to communicate but can’t verbalize, we’ll provide advanced technology devices he can use to express his likes and dislikes so we can honor his wishes.

Every child at St. Mary’s has a unique wish that your donation can help fulfill.

St. Mary’s is honored to have been chosen for the first time to benefit from the Homearama Charity House. We are grateful to St. Mary’s Trustee Vince Napolitano for nominating us, to Tidewater Builders Association for selecting us and to the Crumley family for supporting us with their hard work and generosity.

Your support of the Fall Homearama Charity House will build a strong foundation for children with severe disabilities to have happy lives and achieve their fullest potential. To help, contact Jill Woolard of Crumley Group at 428-5252. Thank you.



William C. Giermak

Nurturing the Spirit

Children of St. Mary’s attend a church service. (Photo by Kathy Brobst.)
St. Mary’s Home is a nurturing place. The staff do a wonderful job of taking care of the children and young adults who live at the home. Kathy Brobst, a physical therapist assistant, recently wrote on her blog about a field trip some of the children took to nurture their spiritual side. Please check it out. 

Checkered Flag Holding Facebook Fan Drive to Benefit St. Mary’s Home

Checkered Flag is a great supporter of St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children.The last two years, the general manager of Checkered Flag Volkswagen in Virginia Beach has turned the dealership’s annual “Buy a Car from a Rock Start” sales event into a benefit for the children of the Home.

Now, Checkered Flag is pushing the pedal to the metal with an incredibly generous offer — and a challenge.

If 500 new people “like” Checkered Flag Auto Group‘s Facebook fan page in the month of July, Checkered Flag Volkswagen will donate a brand new 2010 VW Beetle to the Auxiliary Board of St. Mary’s Home. The new Beetle will be raffled off during the Auxiliary’s 6th Annual Gala and Auction in February, with all proceeds going to the Home.

Read more about the challenge — and about a Checkered Flag employee’s recent visit to the Home — here. Please recommend Checkered Flag Auto Group to all your Facebook friends, and spread the word to to help reach the goal. While you’re on Facebook, don’t forget to click the “like” button St. Mary’s page as well.