WGN News Now featured retired teacher and local artist Cathy Weadley’s sports-based art and how it helps a family member, which you can watch in the video above.
CHICAGO — With her trusty brushes, a toolbox, along with a tub full of paint, she arrives at a condo with one thing – and really one team – on her mind for the morning.
“You can only make one good first impression,” said Cathy Weadley as she prepares to continue work on a condo just outside of Wrigley Field on a sunny day in Lakeview.
On this day, the Chicago resident, retired teacher & coach is doing some touch-up work on her project to turn this living space into a Cubs’ wonderland. It’s complete with the iconic bricks & ivy that have defined the “Friendly Confines” for most of its existence, along with the famed centerfield scoreboard near the kitchen.
That, of course, features the line scores from the Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory over Cleveland.
Around the condo are a few photos and works from local artists that Weadley has decided to feature as part of this team-based makeover. They’ll go up when the painting is done, with this artist making sure to get every last detail correct, no matter how long the time.
“So when people walk in and see this, it speaks volumes about my integrity,” said Weadley of her painting – not only what people see but what it’s for as well.
Since the mid-1990s, the native of Arlington Heights has been taking sports painting projects, mostly with a Cubs’ theme, completing over 30 within homes and condos with more on the way.
“Sports never go out of style,” said Weadley on her reason to stick with the theme of her art.
Most of them concern her favorite team with her fandom starting watching and attending games at Wrigley Field during the famed 1969 Cubs season. It stuck with her as she pursued a career in teaching and coaching in the Chicago suburbs, with her painting career starting with a request and a challenge from a principal.
When Weadley wanted to paint a wall at her school, the administrator wanted proof she could do it, so she found a sports-loving family.
“My friends let me paint my son’s bedrooms, and they said ‘Paint anything you want on the walls,’ and I went ‘I can’t do that. Let them pick whatever sports logos they want,’ because I knew they were into sports,” said Weadley, who painted their requested logos. “I took pictures, I showed my principal, and she goes ‘Oh my god, these are great.'”
Eventually, she transitioned to working on painting jobs outside of schools and for individual homeowners. That includes a Club 400 condo located near Wrigley Field, which is one of the places the charitable organization holds its events after Cubs’ games.
Like other projects, she features a number of local artists’ work along with her painting of the walls to get as many people in the community involved.
“Whatever she does, she takes it from the start to the end and everything’s perfect,” said Mike Lembcke, who has worked with Weadley on projects.
Chris Lembcke, who has worked on bobbleheads for her room designs, had similar sentiments about Weadley’s commitment to getting the details right.
“We were at the condo, it was down to where we put even the ivy,” said Lembcke. “I think it’s amazing how it comes alive.”
But all of these projects have meant a little more since 2014.
It was that year her goddaughter Kelsey was paralyzed in a car accident where she broke bones in her back after the automobile she was in was hit and then fell 25 feet. Through her, Weadley found a new motivation in her art.
“I made it my life mission on that day that every paint job I do going forward will benefit her medical fund,” said Weadley – and she’s followed through.
When mapping out the costs of a job, she also makes sure that the customer is including a donation to help out Kelsey – and over the past nine years it’s made a difference.
“It’s bought her extra wheelchairs, its paid for medical/deductible. It pays for all kinds of things she needs to make her life easier in a wheelchair,” said Weadley.
Tommy Randell is a homeowner in Lakeview who has had his back patio painted in a Cubs theme by the artist while giving his donation to Weadley’s goddaughter. He even had the chance to meet Kelsey after the project was completed, with a new Cubs-theme bar, a Wrigley Field-like foul pole on one of the fences, along with the park’s marquee on the side of the garage.
“Such a cool thing for Cathy to do that,” said Randell. “Cathy’s got such a big heart, it’s amazing.”
Weadley has no intention of slowing down when it comes to projects, with more planned in 2023 both in and outside of Illinois.
“Seeing the people’s faces when they see what I’ve created, seeing the awe. The other day we had a ballplayer’s family visit one of the condos I painted and the little nephew of this ballplayer walked in and he was like ‘Ah!,'” said Weadley of what she gets most out of the painting. “You just can’t get over the eyes of a child see something so cool.”
While she helps Kelsey, she’s also trying to find ways to help others when the situation arises. For instance, Weadley did a project for a family where she had connections as both a teacher and babysitter, where one of the children has been dealing with a serious illness.
“This little boy was born with Noonan Syndrome, and he has millions of dollars in medical bills. I totally flipped his room Cubs,” said Weadley. “This little kid’s going to be a broadcaster someday, he can call out everything about the Chicago Cubs.”
Cathy will be there if he does, continuing projects for kids like him to help Kelsey and continue her greatest passion.
“This is my retirement life, and I couldn’t be happier,” said Weadley. “This is what I love doing, making people happy.”