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The Story

More than a decade ago, Mike Bellotti used his hands to score drug deals. It got him a lengthy rap sheet and 10 years in a federal prison. Today, the 34-year-old Bloomington native uses the same hands to create a lasting monument to families of children who have died of cancer.

“I know I hurt people and had an effect on their lives in a negative way,” Bellotti said of his years as a methamphetamine dealer. “This is just a small way of me trying to give back.”

That small way is a unique partnership with his aunt, his mother and a former prison-camp cellmate who lives in Florida. Bellotti is the artistic force behind the Adam Carter Foundation, named in honor of an 18-year-old cousin who died of leukemia while Bellotti was serving time in a federal lockup in Duluth.

The foundation selects a child through word of mouth or on sites such as CaringBridge. Through family friends or other means, a favorite or defining picture of the child is found, without the parents’ knowledge. The picture is then sent to Bellotti, who replicates it on an oil canvas.

Mary Carter, Bellotti’s aunt, and his mother, Diana Williams, then deliver the framed portrait — unannounced — to the family. Bellotti’s former bunkmate, Frederick Morgenstern, writes the narrative that accompanies the paintings.

Adam Carter

His aunt’s son, his cousin, died Feb. 23, 2006, after a three-year ordeal with leukemia. He had graduated with his senior class months earlier. Christmas was approaching, and Williams asked her imprisoned son if he could do a portrait of Adam Carter from a graduation picture she would send to him. Moved by the request, he shipped off the portrait.

Mary Carter unwrapped the gift on Christmas Day. She saw Adam staring back at her. She broke down in tears.

“I love looking at Adam’s painting every day,” Carter said. “Sometimes I smile at him, sometimes I shake my finger at him for some of the silly things he and his friends used to do, and sometimes I just let a tear fall and tell him I miss him so much.”

> Read the full article by Ruben Rosario

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