EL PASO, Texas - It's hard to top First Lady Michelle Obama but 12-year-old El Pasoan Danashiya Pritchard may have done just that with her speech.
Danashiya gave a speech Friday at the White House Friday to open the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Ceremony. The ceremony was held in the East Room with Danashiya's painting displayed just a few feet from the famous portrait of George Washington.
"Hello everybody," Danashiya, a 7th grader at Parkland Middle School, said with a laugh as she began her speech. She was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when she was just a few months old.
Danashiya wasn't exactly humble when describing the work done through the Creative Kids project AIM or Arts In Motion.
"We make art that blows people's minds," she said as the audience chuckled. Danashiya said she first started participating in AIM when she was 6 years old, saying that when she sat down with the instructor that they talked and it made her feel better.
"When I sat down with Alyssa and started making the artwork, I think everything just disappeared for me. We talked and she made me feel comfortable. She made me feel as if she was my sister. And that was really something I needed at the moment," she said. "By the time I was leaving the art room - wow - I can't put it in words. I didn't want to go home. I wanted to come back the next day. And we made some amazing art. That one (gesturing to her painting on an easel next to her) I made when I was 8 or 9. I was sick then. It was one of my worse crises yet. The hospital is a droopy place. Creative Kids program makes me feel safe and my grandmother, that's her over there. My grandmother feels happy when I'm in Creative Kids."
She closed her speech by saying she's not a natural artist.
"I'm a writer at heart," she said, getting another laugh from the audience. "But they make it seem as if I'm an actual artist. And it's not all me. I want to thank everyone involved with Creative Kids ... without them there would not be a light in a dark situation."
The audience gave Danashiya a standing ovation and Obama appeared to wipe a tear from her eye as she took the stage after the speech to greet all of the honorees.
Their project, AIM, or Arts In Motion, is a program for children battling cancer.
AIM uses art to distract children usually connected to IVs or oxygen tanks.
The program is receiving the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award and also will receive a $10,000 grant.
"Please excuse me while I get sentimental. I just have to say how proud we are to represent El Paso as we receive the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award today at the White House," Drea Gates-Ingle, co-founder of Creative Kids, wrote on her Facebook page early Friday. "We are ecstatic to have Danayshia give opening ceremony remarks on how the program has benefited her personally to having former oncology patient Miranda Luna who is now in remission of her leukemia, accompany me on stage to receive the award from First Lady Michelle Obama. We have an incredible staff, dedicated Board of Directors and underwriters who make this organization run like a machine. Most importantly - over the fourteen-years we have been in operation, I can't help to think of all the children who have come through our program. Some gone too soon and many living healthy and productive lives. Today is dedicated to each and everyone of them."
The youth program award is given out to only 12 organizations nationwide.