The way someone handles the loss of a loved one can speak volumes about their perseverance and character. Heather Buggee has used her personal loss as inspiration to brighten the lives of others.
Splashes of Hope, the nonprofit organization she established in 1996, provides murals for medical and social service facilities to create welcoming environments that facilitate healing. For her efforts to uplift her neighbors, Heather Buggee is a Times Beacon Record Newspapers Person of the Year.
Buggee said in a phone interview that the loss of her friend Will Harvey in 1989 was what drove her to start painting scenes on the ceiling tiles of Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County — where she also created her first mural. Harvey was an artist too, and the projects she took up following his death served as therapy for Buggee.
“While staying with her friend, she realized how sterile and uninspiring the environment was and would talk about how they would brighten up the space and let artwork become a part of the healing process,” Phil Rugile, the Splashes of Hope board president and director of LaunchPad Huntington, said.
According to Buggee, what started out as a few volunteer projects on the weekends with friends turned into a nonprofit organization with the mission of turning hospital environments from “clinical to colorful.”
“After her friend died, she dedicated herself to creating artwork for hospitals, mostly children’s and then veterans as well, working with staff to understand the therapeutic nature of art in ERs and critical care units,” Rugile said. “That dedication to the mission has resulted in her creating inspirational environments both locally and internationally. Heather has built a small and effective organization that achieves maximum results for minimal personal gain.”
Jean Brand, the program director for the Adult Day Health Care program at the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook, sent a thank you note to Buggee after the hospital received an installation in November.
“The positive reaction of our veterans and staff to the new murals is overwhelming,” the note sent to Buggee said. “The colorful and lively iconic scenes of Long Island landmarks bring the program room to life, evoking warm memories for our veterans. The fireworks mural evokes patriotic pride, and of course all the American flags skillfully placed on each mural remind us of the precious freedom our veterans fought to protect.”
Buggee said reactions like those from the patients at the Long Island State Veterans Home are what she most looks forward to.
“My favorite part of the ‘splash’ journey, besides the creative process, is hearing the results of each splash and the purpose being served by each piece,” Buggee said.
In November, Splashes of Hope received the Humanitarian Award from the Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities Inc. for “continuing to bring smiles to the faces of patients, students, staff and visitors at medical and social service facilities by creating art that transforms spaces, enriches environments and facilitates healing,” according to a press release from the ACLD.
Buggee graduated from the Connecticut Institute of Art in 1995 and then studied fresco paintings and interior design at Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy. She now lives in Huntington with her husband, Jimmy, her daughter, Sarah, and her three dogs named Roxy, Eve and Oliver. She refers to Huntington as “the greatest town in the whole wide world.”
But her efforts to bring smiles to her neighbors’ faces reach way beyond town lines.
To donate to Splashes of Hope or to get involved, visit www.splashesofhope.org.