Jeff was just 12 years old when he was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerves. For Jeff, the tumor on his optic nerve resulted in a dwindling ability to see. Jeff began chemotherapy and radiation when the tumor threatened to leave him totally blind.
Jeff’s parents, Julie and Hal gave him a set of watercolors, so that while he was in treatment he would have something fun to do. It was when he began painting on notecards that they discovered his gift of color.
That summer Jeff began selling his notecards in the front of his driveway and, to his surprise, at the end of the summer he had accumulated $15,000 which he decided to give to charity. His first donation went to the Children’s Tumor Foundationto aid in researching his own diagnosis.
Jeff then moved on to acrylic art on canvas and began auctioning of his paintings at charity events. In five years and at the age of 17, Jeff has donated more than $350,000 to more than 50 charities, many of them devoted to children.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation brought Jeff together with Elton John, and at the end of their meeting Jeff handed Elton a check for his Aids Foundation. Astonished by the young man’s generosity, Elton in turn made a donation to the Children’s Tumor Foundation.
Jeff’s goals include raising a million dollars to give to charity. Fueled by a passion for color and texture, as well as his own need to help many of the disadvantaged children around him, Jeff is recognized as an inspiration to people who may feel beaten down by unfortunate circumstances as well as people who can make a difference in the lives of others with something as beautiful as art.
When you watch this video about Jeff, nothing can prepare you for the impact this young man’s life has had. His creativity, attitude and talent have created an incredible legacy for what is possible under any circumstances. Jeff takes to heart what Elton John said to him “if you give to the world, the world will give back”.
Bravo Jeff, you personify the true art of making a difference, and thank you to Julie and Hal for bringing joy and paint into your son’s life. Keep up with Jeff through his website at http://www.jeffreyowenhanson.com.