A Priceless Gift and an Image of Hope: An Artist’s Lasting Impact

“If it wasn’t for OSF, I wouldn’t be here.”

Karla Runquist breathes a sigh of relief as she sits in her home…surrounded by color.

Yes, color.

Karla’s walls are adorned with paintings...different landscapes, animals, and sunset scenes.

She’s painted them all herself.

“I’ve always been interested in art,” she smiled. “In fact, my children encouraged me to take classes at Western Illinois University.”

Her passion quickly turned into a profession, which led to Karla teaching art classes, selling her oil paintings, water colors, and sculptures in art shows, and having her work featured in galleries across the country.

But 17 years ago, the beauty from Karla’s paintbrush nearly dried up following a severe medical condition.

“I had a gallstone lodged in my pancreas,” Karla explained.  “It prevented fluids from draining out.  One day while in my studio I got incredibly ill…and it went from bad to worse.”

Shortly after, Karla arrived at a local hospital.  Weak and dazed…she only remembers closing her eyes.

Three months later, she awoke at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

“I woke up nine days before I went home,” said Karla. The caregivers were amazing. Dr. Treanor and Dr. Rossi saved my life.  They even encouraged me to do artwork while in the hospital to help me recover.”

Here’s a unique twist to Karla’s story. Nearly two decades before getting sick, Karla painted this image:


“I was inspired by God, but the book Jesus of Nazareth was my referenceI wanted to do a painting of Jesus,” said Karla.  “It had incredible meaning for me because I believe we can all feel God in our heart.”

Through the years the painting made its debut at various venues--including area churches.  When Karla got sick, her family decided to share a print of this painting with the Sisters in the OSF Ministry.  But upon recovery, Karla was inspired to do something more.

“I decided I didn’t want to leave the original painting in my will,” she explained.  “I wanted to donate it so others could enjoy it.  Sure, I had buyers and bidders who were interested, but this work is priceless.”

So Karla picked up the phone and called the OSF Healthcare Foundation.

“I decided to donate the original work to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, as a thank you for everything its caregivers did for me and my family.”

In order for artwork to be displayed at the hospital, the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis must approve it.  Upon laying eyes on the 24 x 36 inch painting matted in an elegant gold frame—they all agreed, it would soon have a new home.

“The next step was finding out where it should be placed in the hospital,” smiled Karla.  “I worked with the OSF Healthcare Foundation and it was decided the best place would be St. Anthony’s Shrine--one of the busiest prayer rooms at OSF Saint Francis.”

Karla’s work is now on display for all eyes to see, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It’s the perfect area for my painting to be,” she smiled. “I wanted this painting to be in a place where it would bring hope. My family and I can relate to the many people facing trying times because we lived it ourselves at OSF. If this painting of Jesus can bring inspiration and comfort to even one person, then I know my work is complete.”

Interesting Fact: 17 years ago, Karla’s printed copy of this painting was loved so much; the Sister’s chose to hang it in the Forest Park Building located on the campus of OSF Saint Francis. Now, nearly 20 years later…the original painting, Three Faces of Jesus, has found its way home.

Thank you Karla for you kindness and generosity! Your gift is continuing to bring hope to the many people who turn to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center for care each day.