Two-year-old Maia Bastianelli was playing in the basement one day when her grandmother, Mikki Doling, suggested she try drawing some stick-figure animals on her chalkboard. Neither of them had any idea that moment would become a defining one in the young girl’s life. That casual suggestion, however, sparked Maia’s passion for art, and Maia’s artwork has had an effect on the lives of many others in the Rochester region.
Maia, who is now 8, has been drawing and painting ever since that fateful day in the basement, and last year she decided to have three of her paintings reproduced as notecards. Proceeds from the sale of those notecards benefit Daystar for Medically Fragile Children, which is a pediatric day-respite center for medically fragile children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years. Daystar was founded in 1989 by the Sisters of St. Joseph and currently provides pediatric nursing, therapeutic services and educational-enrichment programs for dozens of children with complex medical needs.
“Maia has been incredibly generous,” remarked Kim Condon, executive director of Daystar. “This project, which we thought would raise a couple hundred bucks, has raised (approximately) $10,000.”
Maia, who takes art lessons at the Mill Art Center and Gallery in Honeoye Falls, was moved to do something after visiting Daystar and meeting the children at the facility.
When I saw that some of them couldn’t even eat or walk on their own I was a little sad. I thought, ‘How could I help them?’ Then I thought I could turn my paintings into something that could help them,” Maia said.
Doling, who previously had served on Daystar’s board of directors, approached Condon with the idea of selling notecards to benefit Daystar. Condon agreed to the idea before seeing Maia’s artwork, and was blown away when she saw the notecards.
“I was thinking we were going to get some beautiful, very cute children’s artwork, so when I saw the final product I was actually astounded and I could not believe a child had done that,” she recalled. “It has sophisticated compositions of Tuscan landscapes. It’s beautifully done. You can just see that this child is so talented and gifted.”
Just as inspiring as Maia’s generosity and artistic ability was the way the young girl interacted with the children at Daystar when she visited the facility to deliver the notecards, Condon said. Maia, who was 7 at the time, interacted with the children the same way she would interact with other peers, Condon added.
“Here’s a kiddo that didn’t know anything about our kids but now sees them in the community and is not intimidated by their medical devices and talks to them as a child does,” Condon said. “What I find so striking about it is that’s what Daystar is about. Our message is inclusivity and making sure that people understand that they are children first and foremost, and they have beautiful personalities.”
Maia has always been a very sweet-natured person who really cares about others’ feelings, noted her mother, Katie Bastianelli.
“I’m very proud of her. She is just the most empathetic person,” Bastianelli said.
In fact, Maia even taught her second-grade classmates what the word ‘empathy’ means during a class project at Pittsford’s Park Road Elementary, Doling added. Maia’s concern for others extends to animals as well, Bastianelli said, noting that Maia frequently helps her mother rehabilitate injured small animals they find near their home.
“When I grow up I want to be an animal rescuer,” Maia said.
Her passion for animals inspired Maia to create another set of notecards, with the proceeds from this second set benefiting EquiCenter, which provides therapeutic equestrian programs to people with disabilities, at-risk youths and veterans. Both sets of notecards, which come in packs of six, may be purchased for $10 per package at People’s Pottery, located at 3025 Monroe Ave. in Pittsford, or online at www.madebymaia.com.
The cards benefiting Daystar also may be purchased online via the facility’s website at www.daystarkids.org. Those notecards also will be available for sale at Daystar’s upcoming Daystar Derby gala fundraiser, which will be held May 6.
“It has really become a beautiful partnership,” Condon said of Maia’s work with Daystar.