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Deepa Bharath "Can I have some blue?" The...

November 10, 2002

Deepa Bharath

"Can I have some blue?"

The well-built teenager hunched over a dining table, temporarily

transformed into a work table, asked for some colored sand to fill a

prefabricated pattern.

It was a cheerful-looking design -- dolphins frolicking in the

ocean.

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Ramsey, 17, took the sand and spread it over the patterned piece

of paper. All he had to do was peel off adhesive strips from the

pattern and fill that area with a color of his choice.

Art therapist Janet Carroll opened a bag of coarse blue sand,

emptied it in a clear, plastic cup and handed it down to Ramsey.

Carroll came to Costa Mesa-based South Coast Children's Center

more than five years ago to teach self-esteem, anger management and

music therapy to the abused or neglected children who sought shelter

in the center's group homes.

She didn't think the kids would care for her mandolin or her "kind

of music." So she started them on art projects. She refers to the

children as "boys" most of the time because there are very few girls

in the group homes.

The Daily Pilot is not using the children's last names because of

their background of abuse or neglect.

"The boys love doing art," Carroll said, eyeing the students

around the table who were engrossed in their work. "They get excited

about it. They get anxious if I'm late to a session. They say: 'Art

lady! You're late.'"

The boys would jostle and shove each other on the playground. But

when they gathered around a table with their art, they were on a

different kind of playing field.

"There would be no sound, no nothing," Carroll said. "They're just

so intense. So hard at work."

Around the table in that Costa Mesa group home on a recent

afternoon were Ramsey and two other boys -- Joe and Brian, both 14.

Joe is torn between the dolphins and a Mickey Mouse picture.

"I'm making this one for my girlfriend," he said. "I don't know if

she'd like the dolphins or Mickey."

He held the Mickey Mouse pattern for a second and put it down.

"Nah," he dismissed it with a wave of his hand. "I think she'll

like the dolphin one better."

"I'm making one for my mom and one for my grandma," Brian said.

Brian was the quiet one. He only looked up and smiled when Joe,

who plays football for his high school, gave Ramsey a hard time about

going to a rival high school.

"Can I have some gray, please?" Joe borrowed sand to color his

dolphins.

"Good choice of color, Joe," Carroll said.

Ramsey hadn't quite decided who he'll give the painting to. Ramsey

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