Using photography to make a difference in a child's life--
Throughout the year, I (along with numerous other photographers) are asked to shoot events and/or portraits for free. Sometimes the requests are for charitable events. Sometimes they are for groups who may not have much of a budget to spend, so they want to trade marketing/exposure for photography services. Although I don't feel like anyone is truly trying to take advantage of photographers, I also don't think people understand that shooting a couple hours worth of photos is not just that...a couple hours of work. There is so much more work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare for, work and then finish a two-hour job.
Even though I'd love to help out each charitable cause that comes my way, it's just not possible to do so while also running a business and providing quality work for each client. I've found the best way for me and my business to give back to the community it to truly give from the heart.
"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:7
It really does make a huge difference when your whole heart is in it. I've noticed that in the past when I volunteered out of a feeling of responsibility (i.e. I'm free that day, have the gear to do the job, think I should help out a good cause), my heart wasn't in it, and I've almost ended up resenting the planner/event/cause even though I was the one who agreed to work for free. On the other hand, I've worked photographing for 12-hour stints in the middle of a Houston summer for a cause I truly embraced, and I did it with a smile all day.
So now I'll get off my soapbox (I apologize) and tell you about a few causes for which I do love to give my time and talent.
The first event is called "Wake the World." Their slogan is, "Caring through sharing the gift of water sports." Wake the World events are held all over the US, and I've been blessed to help with the past two events in the Houston area. Boat owners throughout the community gather for a day to provide watersports opportunities to abandoned, abused and neglected children, most of whom are living in group homes. These kids get to spend the day tubing, wake boarding and swimming, and just being a care-free kid. Not only does it benefit the kids, but I think the boat owners enjoy sharing their passion of water sports with kids who may not otherwise have had that opportunity. Of course, if you know about my love for the water, then you know that this cause is the perfect avenue for me to give with a cheerful heart.
The second organization is called "The Heart Gallery." This organization works to find forever families for children through direct recruitment opportunities and education of foster and adoptive families. At the core of this outreach is simply a picture. "But there is nothing simple about it; our volunteer photographers truly capture a child’s spirit in every shot. These pictures speak louder than words. They say, 'I’m here and I am special.'" Adoption is near and dear to me because my cousin Scott was adopted. Unfortunately he is no longer with us, as he was killed tragically in a car accident in 2015. But knowing that I might be able to make a difference to a child who needs to find their forever family is a great way to honor his memory.
And the third cause and feature act of this blog is "Flashes of Hope." This groups "honors the courage of children with cancer by capturing a moment in time and funding research so they will have the chance to create a lifetime of memories." I don't remember really knowing what cancer was until I was 12. I know I had heard about people having cancer before, but I just didn't understand that it was the worst six letter word in the English language. That year though, my mom's best friend was diagnosed with cancer, and she passed away within the year. It was my first experience with a broken heart, and I've feared that six letter word ever since.
Fast forward 15 years or so, and I found out about Flashes of Hope (FOH). In that time, more people than I can count had been diagnosed with cancer, including my dad. By the power of the Great Healer, my Lord and Savior, he is alive and well today...something I thank God for each and every day. After discovering FOH, I immediately applied to be a photographer. To make sure the participants get the best images possible, the organization is very picky about who they choose to be a photographer, with priority going to members of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). Unfortunately, I was not an ASMP member and therefore was not chosen. I told them I'd be happy to volunteer as an assistant to other photographers instead but never got a call to do that either.
About this time last year, I joined ASMP for various professional benefits and found that the local Houston chapter of ASMP is very active with FOH. I was reintroduced to the program, and ta da, was soon accepted to be one of their photographers at MD Anderson. Just a few days before Halloween, I had the opportunity to photograph my first group of kids for this great organization.
I wasn't sure what to expect going in, but the whole day it felt like I was photographing your average kid from the local elementary or high school. By their big smiles, happy demeanor and wonderful families who laughed along with my corny jokes and goofy faces, you'd never know that these kids were sick.
It made me happy to see all of them in such good spirits. At the same time, it broke my heart to know that these kids were in fact sick. I hope when I return to photograph again at MD Anderson, I'll hear that all of these kids are well and in remission. After listening to the stories from the other volunteers, I know that won't necessarily be the case. But at least I know that through the great work Flashes of Hope is doing, more and more cancer research is being funded each day, and the families who participate will go home with beautiful photographs of their children to cherish for a lifetime.
Take a moment and look at these photographs, say a prayer for the healing for these kids, and if you have a little extra to give back this Christmas season, consider giving to Flashes of Hope or another cause near and dear to your heart.