MANCHESTER, NJ — Hannah Donner has been getting emails.
“My son was in the hospital and they lit up his stay,” one mom wrote to the Manchester woman, who has spearheaded a project called Paint It Forward, painting ceiling tiles for the K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune.
The project has been wildly successful, with 600 tiles painted and installed so far and another 500 in the works.
Some of those who write to her want to know how they can help. Others write simply to tell her how much her story has inspired them.
“It’s coming full circle for sure,” Hannah said. “You never know how something can inspire someone else.”
Her story is inspiring; it’s a testament to strength, perseverance and the power of faith. Three years ago at Thanksgiving, Hannah was taking her first steps to return to high school after a car accident nearly claimed her life. She was just days from turning 18.
She was airlifted to the trauma unit at Jersey Shore following the Sept. 23, 2016 crash. Two days later, finally stabilized, they moved her to the pediatric intensive care unit, where Hannah stayed for another 11 days. Her survival was nothing short of a miracle. Read more: Ocean County Teen’s Recovery From Near-Fatal Crash Simply Miraculous
Hannah’s parents, Tom and Donna, and her brother Zach, initially were told she might never return to school. But Hannah, now 21, not only returned to school, she graduated on time with her Central Regional High School classmates in June 2017 and currently is in her junior year at The College of New Jersey.
The family credits much of that to the care she received in the hospital. Which is why Hannah wanted to give back. Read more: Manchester Woman Giving Back To Hospital That Saved Her Life
“They left such a mark on my life. They gave me a second chance,” she said in March when she talked about Paint It Forward.
The response to the project has been so significant that the efforts to install the tiles are spreading to other units at the children’s hospital, Hannah said. They are working to put tiles in the pediatric day-stay unit, where children stay overnight following a procedure.
And as her story has spread — Hannah and her Paint It Forward project have been featured both locally and regionally — the list of those who want to take part grows.
“There are a lot of Girl Scout (painting) events planned,” she said.
Hannah has painted 40 tiles herself — “If I’m just sitting watching TV I’ll paint one,” she said — but most of her favorite tiles are ones other have painted. There are tiles based on the Disney movie “Up” — “They’re very meticulous and so beautiful,” she said — and ones with inspiring messages.
One painted by her roommate, Rachel, who’s a field hockey player at TCNJ, includes a message Rachel’s father gives her before every game: Full Speed. No Fear.
“I love that message,” Hannah said.
What inspires her most about the project is how so many people have pitched in simply to help others. The tiles are $15, and the funds are donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“People actually want to help each other,” she said. “Even if they’re just painting the tile for something to do, they’re inspiring others. And that inspires me.”
If you would like to buy a tile and participate, you can contact Hannah at email@example.com. See more of the tiles painted so far below.
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