The murals differ from one another, but the plan is the same: to elicit a smile from a child.

Greg Preslicka, an artist from Savage, donates his time and talent to paint vibrant, one-of-a-kind murals for children whose days could use a little brightening.

His latest project: creating welcoming murals that adorn the bedroom walls at the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, a nonprofit for children and families in crisis.

Over the years, the nursery has sheltered tens of thousands of tots from distressed families, offering medical care, a warm bed and attention from staff and volunteers. It’s always open, has a 24-hour hot line and provides counseling for parents.

Preslicka’s murals are painted in vivid colors and reflect different themes to capture children’s imagination: One has a jungle motif, with parrots sitting on a tree branch; another depicts a night sky full of stars under a gleaming moon; yet another features a large grinning whale surrounded by little fish, and finally, there’s one with a bright sun peeking out from the clouds.

A professional artist who has been commissioned to paint murals for libraries, schools and the YMCA, Preslicka donated the four murals to the Crisis Nursery to help the kids staying there to feel at ease.

“I’m just hoping that it will make their time there feel more comfortable and give them a little happiness in a situation where it’s probably not wonderful for them,” he said. “After we did the first set, the [nursery] director said the kids were arguing and fighting about who could be in those rooms.”

It wasn’t the first time he has donated a mural for a child. Before the Crisis Nursery project, Preslicka worked with the Make-a-Wish Foundation to create a “Little Mermaid” mural for the bedroom of a little girl in Marshall, Minn., who had cancer.

Preslicka and his wife, Heidi, who manages the business side of his art career, regularly search for opportunities to offer free murals for kids in need.

“We’ve always had the idea of wanting to give back to the community,” Greg said. “And I love connecting with kids.”

His artistic style is well suited for younger children. His murals can be seen all over the state and in Wisconsin, too, more than 70 in all, Heidi said.

The ones at the Crisis Nursery received rave reviews from the children. Heidi shared an e-mail from Danielle Brady, volunteer services manager at the nursery: “You made bedtime, one of the hardest times of day for kids here at the nursery, much more fun and less scary!”

Just watching the children’s reaction to his art is reward enough, Greg said.

“I can see the kids’ excitement,” he said. “As I was painting the Crisis Nursery, some of the kids would wander in and you could just see the awe in their eyes.”