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Keaton Barron, then 6, shows a painting he made of a chameleon at the Art with a Heart auction in 2017. Young artists like Keaton who have been treated for cancer exhibit their artwork to raise money for the Oklahoma Children's Cancer Association. [Photo provided by Holly Barron]




Oklahoma City — Keaton Barron was in the hospital, dealing with complications of a disease he's lived with for two-thirds of his young life, but he still found the energy to make a painting that could sell for hundreds.

Keaton, 7, is one of the young artists whose work will go up for auction on Saturday to benefit the Oklahoma Children's Cancer Association. All of the children are current or former patients at the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center. Most will be present to answer questions about their work.

The “Art with a Heart” silent auction runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday in the atrium of the Children's Hospital, with a happy hour for the adults starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $50 at the door or in advance at Children under 10 can attend for free. The tickets and auction bids typically raise about $55,000.

Keaton was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 2 1/2, his mother Holly Barron said. In children who have that type of leukemia, the bone marrow produces cancerous cells instead of healthy white blood cells, which fight infections. He was declared cancer-free after his first diagnosis, but relapsed, and has had to go through treatment repeatedly, Barron said.  “It's been really hard, being in and out of the hospital for five years,” she said.

Preparing for the art show was a welcome change of pace for Keaton, Barron said. He and the other participating kids worked with adult artists over two days to plan and produce pieces that will go up for auction. This year, Keaton and his co-artist painted a jaguar, because of Keaton's interest in animals, she said.


Leukemia treatment depletes the immune system, so typical school and social activities aren't an option for Keaton and kids like him, Barron said. The art days offer a chance to play, without worrying about what germs might be circulating, she said.  “It was really a nice break,” she said. “This is something that's fun and safe for him.”


The auction itself also became a highlight of the year for Keaton the previous two times he participated, Barron said. The kids got to dress up, ride in limos and see people lining up to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for their work, she said. Friends will represent Keaton and answer questions about his painting this year, because he's still recovering from a new type of treatment.


“We tried everything to be back this year,” she said. “It is seriously one of the favorite things our family has gotten to do these last couple of years.”

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