November 25, 2007 | Posted by John Przybys
Nonprofit group takes uplifting portraits to make youngsters more comfortable with their changing appearance
To most of us, it looks like a regular, albeit professionally done, portrait.
But, to a child who has cancer, it could recall a welcome break in a treatment regimen. And, for the child's parents, it could become a keepsake of a particularly rough time in a son's or daughter's life.
Capturing in uplifting portraits the lives of children and youths who are battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses is what Flashes of Hope is all about.
Andrea Rapanos, director of the Las Vegas chapter of the nonprofit group, which was created in February, notes that children can experience significant changes in their appearance -- from losing hair to getting blotchy skin and mouth sores -- as they undergo treatment.
Through Flashes of Hope, volunteer professional photographers from across the valley take portraits of the children in an effort to "have them celebrate their changing appearance," Rapanos says.
In addition, she says, Flashes of Hope provides families with "an item they will treasure the rest of their lives."
Some children, and some parents, aren't quite sure at first, Rapanos says of the service. "Even some of our older kids are, 'Uh, I don't know.' Particularly with teens, image is very important, so they get a little skittish.
"But for the most part, when you get the photos back it's like, 'Can I have a copy of this one? Can I have a couple of copies?' They're really excited about it."
Children can pose with their parents, siblings, friends, doctors or medical staff or, even, their pets.
"One of our teens, who has since passed away, was in our first photo shoot," Rapanos says. "And I'll never forget: He had the entire staff on the unit, myself included, in his picture."
The group schedules its photo shoots at local hospitals and pediatric oncology clinics. The photographers who donate their time and skills to the effort are "absolutely incredible," Rapanos says.
Currently, she adds, Flashes of Hope is searching for hair and makeup stylists to volunteer their expertise. For more information, call 735-8434 or write to: The Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, Flashes of Hope Program, 6070 S. Eastern Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89119.
More information also can be found on the national group's Web site, (www.flashesofhope.org), which also offers a link to a portrait gallery.
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 383-0280.
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