Visiting artist brings students message of hope

All Saints Catholic School fifth-graders Janell Nguyen, left, and Leslie Lai look at a paper snowflake made by Keith Bonnstetter of Davenport.

By Elise Ward

DAVENPORT — Students in Elieen O’Brien’s class at All Saints Catholic School were visited by Keith Bonnstetter, who shared his story and artwork with the fifth-graders earlier this month.

Bonnstetter, a Bettendorf High School Spanish teacher, is also an artist who creates paper sculptures and snowflakes. Stories of his fine art have been published in the 2010 Dillards Catalog, the December/January edition of Baby Talk magazine and the 2010 Guideposts. He also has been a guest on Martha Stewart and Paula Sands Live! television shows.

His artwork emerged during the time he and his wife were dealing with their young daughter’s disease, which affected her muscle tone and walking capabilities. The doctors said she would most likely pass away before age 30; nothing could be done. Bonnstetter shared his family’s roller coaster ride in not merely dealing with, but pushing through and supporting the daughter with a focus on her capabilities. Through God’s loving support, the power of prayer and some supportive chiropractors, the parents and their daughter celebrated a walking party when the child no longer needed to use her assistive walker. Life was full of miracles and hope.


Bonnstetter was drawn to making snowflakes and paper art to decorate his family’s home window during the Christmas season about 12 years ago. He was propelled by his talent and the need to pay off the accumulating medical bills that resulted from the process to aid his daughter in rehabilitation.

As his relationship with God grew, he asked God for help with his financial situation, he told the class. Through the making, sharing and now selling of these intricate pieces of finely crafted scissor artwork, Bonnstetter was able to slowly pay off medical bills in support of his family.

He referenced his struggle to the Lord’s struggle; his family grew “from tragedy to miracles” just like Jesus went “from suffering to resurrection.”

The artist encouraged the All Saints students to reflect on miracles in their lives and to give thanks to the Lord, faith and supportive families.

Bonnstetter proceeded to demonstrate the art of paper cutting and aided the students in making their own creations. He shared many examples of his art work including pieces that measured two feet by two feet and took approximately 10 hours of work time, not including planning.

All Saints was honored to have Bonnstetter visit, demonstrate his fine arts skill and share his touching and miraculous story. It is a reminder for the students and teachers that miracles happen all around them and they can rejoice in the little steps with hope and perseverance.

(Elise Ward is an art teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport.)

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