Nonprofit allows ill kids, their familes focus on memories - Pittsburgh Tribune Review

July 18, 2008  |  Posted by Allison Heinrichs

Thursday morning, Jason and Sherry Moore brought their toddler to Children's Hospital's oncology unit.
They know their way around the department -- sometimes they have to bring in 2-year-old Gavin four times a week for chemotherapy to treat the leukemia he was diagnosed with in February. But yesterday, they were there to smile.

Flashes of Hope, a national nonprofit that photographs children with cancer or other serious illnesses, was holding a monthly photo session. The hospital announced earlier this week that it recently established its own chapter.

"We just wanted to get some good pictures of him," said Jason Moore of Graysville in Greene County as he watched his wife cuddle their boy. "This is a part of his life, and it's tough. But he'll get through it, he's a strong boy."

Carla Mooney of Gibsonia started the local Flashes of Hope chapter after Children's began treating her son, Daniel, 3, for leukemia. Daniel was diagnosed in Philadelphia, and the Flashes of Hope chapter there offered to photograph him, but Mooney was still adjusting to her son's cancer and decided to wait. After moving to Pittsburgh, she was ready for the photo session but found that Children's didn't have the service.

"I thought that I totally missed my opportunity," Mooney said.

So she contacted Flashes of Hope, which has 25 chapters nationwide, and volunteered to start a Pittsburgh chapter.

"It's a stressful time for parents, and sometimes day-to-day things like family photos slip by," Mooney said. "Even though their child might be on steroids or bald, there is still beauty in them. And, for the families that don't have positive outcomes for their children, these photos are a beautiful memory."

Independent photographer Michael Haritan of McMurray volunteered to take portraits of about a dozen patients and their families yesterday. Members of the American Society of Media Photographers usually volunteer with Flashes of Hope.

"It will be a nice remembrance of this moment, and that is what photography is all about," Haritan said. "Capturing memories."

Local stylists and make-up artists volunteer to give the children and their parents or siblings mini-makeovers to get them camera-ready, if they desire.

Bea Thomas, a Mary Kay make-up artist in East Liberty, said her service seems especially important for mothers who have been too wrapped up in their children's care to pay much attention to their appearance, which makes them camera-shy.

"A lot of what their life is about is focusing on their children and not necessarily themselves," she said. "So we try to ... make the moment special for them, too."

Sometimes doctors and nurses are called upon to pose with their patients.

Dr. Jean Tersak, a pediatric oncologist, flashed her pearly whites with Connor Vickers, 2, of North Huntingdon.
"It's just so good to see him smile," Tersak said. "You know, all of the children, including Connor, are just such an inspiration."

Allison M. Heinrichs can be reached at or 412-380-5607.

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