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Flashes of Hope shines in People Magazine

December 22, 2008  |  Posted by Bob Meadows

Smile! Having a portrait taken gives joy - and a priceless souvenir - to sick kids fighting for their lives
By Bob Meadows

The toy toucan doesn't do the trick, nor the wagon and the two lollipops. The Cheetos work, though, and Christopher Cummings' tears fade as the photographer starts snapping shots of him and his parents. Cummings, a year old and weighing just 18 lbs., is having his picture taken at the Cleveland Clinic where he has spent far too much of his short life being treated for a tumor on his optic nerve. “I’ve never had a photo of the three of us,” says his mom, Crystal Carroll, 20. “We’ll cherish this.”

Kids like Christopher spend so much time at hospitals " he comes once a week for chemotherapy- that visiting a photo studio is out of the question. So Flashes of Hope, an Ohio based non-profit with branches in 30 cities, brings the studio to them. Made up of professional photographers who volunteer their time, the group captures lasting impressions of 3,000 sick children each year, says cofounder Allison Clarke, whose son Quinn " one of the inspirations for Flashes " was rediagnosed with cancer in May. “For so long I’ve been comforting parents,” Clarke says. “Now I’m trying to be strong for my son, but he’s not letting this get him down, so I can’t either.”

In Memory of Mandwell " Allison Clarke thinks about Mandwell Smith every day. She met Mandwell, a 10-year old cancer patient, when her son Quinn, then just 20 months old, was treated for rhabdomyosarcoma at the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland in 2000. Mandwell befriended young Quinn and often played games with the toddler. But the next year Mandwell died. Clarke, shocked by the death, wished she had a photo of the boys together. As Quinn’s health improved, Clarke, a former model, developed her idea. She called friends and soon had a stable of photographers ready to volunteer for her nonprofit venture Flashes of Hope. Sadly, Quinn was rediagnosed with cancer in May 2008. In October he underwent chemotherapy and radiation in Houston and will undergo surgery to remove a tumor in his pelvis this month. During this rough time, Clarke draws strength from parents she’s met through Flashes. “It’s touched so many people,” she says.

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20252073,00.html

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