One+of+the+five+murals+hangs+during+a+meet+and+greet+for+the+new+art+installation+%22Everyday+Joy%22+in+the+Stead+Family+Children%E2%80%99s+Hospital+on+Aug.+29%2C+2019.+More+than+300+children+worked+on+this+project+that+celebrates+the+memory+of+UI+student+Mollie+Tibbetts.+

Katie Goodale

One of the five murals hangs during a meet and greet for the new art installation “Everyday Joy” in the Stead Family Children’s Hospital on Aug. 29, 2019. More than 300 children worked on this project that celebrates the memory of UI student Mollie Tibbetts.

Community spreads ‘everyday joy’

September 2, 2019

Mollie’s family is not alone in honoring her legacy. Different communities have come together to memorialize her life, spreading the kindness and compassion that she showed everyone.

In a conference room on the sixth floor of the Children’s Hospital hangs a five-panel painting, capturing the “everyday joy” Mollie found in life.

The large canvases are filled with flowers, leaves, hearts, and abstract shapes in neon colors. The swirls, stripes, and dots covering the paintings exude a lightness that fills the room.

Children who knew Mollie from the daycare at which she worked, as well as kids from another daycare and Children’s Hospital patients, helped paint the piece. Laura said it looks just like something Mollie would have painted, with abstract shapes and bright colors.

Laura said they had discussions of wanting to brighten up the rooms where children would have meetings — and what better way to do that than with something children made?

Seeing the sincerity and the seriousness on their faces [as the children worked]… that’s been a positive thing.”

Another piece of art hangs in the Grinnell College art gallery that children helped make in honor of Mollie. This one is a handmade hanging piece, and Laura helped sew the pieces together.

Much like the paintings, the piece is made up of brightly colored hearts, flowers, and shapes. Each piece hangs from the other to create an elaborate chandelier, and the longer one looks, the more details jump out. The initials M.T. are painted on one shape.

“Seeing the sincerity and the seriousness on their faces [as the children worked]… that’s been a positive thing,” she said.

For the children who had a relationship with Mollie, making this art was an important step in the healing process, Laura said. Mollie and the events surrounding her death will likely stick with them for the rest of their lives, and being able to work through their feelings with art will help them remember her life, not just her death.

“I just think it’s important for them to do what is essential to help themselves through this,” she said.

In Grinnell’s Ahrens Park, where Mollie used to take the kids she looked after at the summer camp as a staff member, stand statues made of dark metal. The abstract statues, placed earlier this summer, show Mollie putting her arms around children and playing with her dog.

Children can sit at the base of the statues to play, or talk, or just sit and remember, Kim said.

“I really like the theme of everyday joy,” she said.

IMAGES: An outpouring of love for Mollie Tibbetts from the community

Mollie is being remembered through more than just art. Livenow Photography has T-shirts and postcards for Mollie’s Movement, and prints Kindness Cards for people to hand out.

Kim said she tries to give out a few cards a week.

“Our family was on the receiving end of so much kindness during all of it, that we have been trying to pay it forward in as many ways as we can,” she said.

Movements such as Miles for Mollie are still going strong, and the second Mollie Tibbetts memorial run is set for Sept. 29 in Brooklyn. The high school Mollie attended also has four $500 scholarships in her name.

On Mollie’s 21st birthday on May 8, Morgan said many people took it upon themselves to participate in random acts of kindness to honor Mollie.

“It was really made a big deal to… share the kindness on her birthday,” she said.

But smaller than organizations and movements are the teal ribbons still fluttering in Brooklyn, and the mail Laura continues to receive from people offering their condolences and well-wishes to the family.

“[I have] boxes [of mail] from all over the country,” she said. “… They haven’t stopped, and it’s been over a year.”

Letters are stored in boxes, which are scattered around Laura’s living room and office. Cards from Pennsylvania, Georgia, California, and all around the country seemed to overflow from their containers. Each one has been opened and read.

Laura has also received many gifts, including drawings, posters signed by church congregations, and a glass box holding fairy lights and a picture of Mollie — a sign that community members, too, strive to keep Mollie in their hearts.

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