The face mask hid a cheeky smile, but you could feel the positive energy.
Dressed in a checked shirt and blue slacks and waiting patiently, was Branden Lim, born with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a condition that could have been fatal by the time he turned three, as it is a progressive neuromuscular disorder.
A born fighter, Lim, now 13, was among the guests of honour at the recent ‘Battle of the Reds’ press conference to announce a ‘legends’ match between English clubs Manchester United and Liverpool at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on April 27.
Although not a football fan like his United-supporting father, Edmund, Lim, who is wheelchair-bound, is one of two artists whose artwork is for sale to raise funds for the ‘Art For Rare’ project by WeCareJourney.
Art for Rare seeks to empower young Malaysians grappling with rare conditions and disabilities by providing a platform for self-expression, and fostering independence.
Lim, who started painting when he was two, held a solo exhibition last year and hopes his paintings will help raise money for ‘Art For Rare’.
He contributed four artworks, while another artist, Ainaa Farhanah Amali has two paintings.
Making their paintings even more valuable are signatures of English Premier League legends Teddy Sheringham and John Arne Riise, who will play in the ‘Battle of the Reds’ in April.
Lim has never questioned the cards life had dealt him, and uses the power of positivity to brighten the world around him.
“I don’t think about it. I have positive thoughts and always try to be myself,” Lim said with a twinkle in his eye.
Asked where he gets his inspiration from, Lim flashed his trademark cheeky smile and said: “From within.”
His mother, Yap Sook Yee, said Lim started painting as a form of therapy.
“One way to slow down the progress of neuromuscular disorders is through movement exercises, like painting. We gave him paint and brushes, and that was how he started,” she explained.
“He had a natural talent, and not long after, friends and relatives were captivated by his art pieces.”
The family did not think much about it until offers started coming in to buy some of his artwork.
“That was when we realised that he had a great talent,” said Yap.
“We encouraged him to keep up with his painting, even though most of the time, we are confused with what he is doing, until we see the end product.
“We just hand him the paints and brushes, and sometimes, turn the canvas around for him.”
She said Lim’s condition means that he tires easily. These days, he paints lying down.
Unable to get formal schooling, Yap home-schools Lim with the help of an online tutor.
Away from his painting, Lim loves spending time outdoors and enjoys watching other children play and run around.
He does not feel bitter or angry that he cannot join in.
“I like spending time outdoors and never asked, ‘Why me?’
“As long as I can continue painting, I will be happy,” said Lim, who turns 14 on July 13.
You can buy exclusive merchandise to support the ‘Art For Rare’ campaign, while the tournament’s organisers have also pledged to contribute 100 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of 376 tickets, each valued at RM108, to support the association.