February 14, 2011 | Posted by Jaye Watson
It can be the toughest time in a family's life, when their child is diagnosed with cancer. One of the last things most families would want? Professional portraits taken of their child in the middle of grueling treatment. But that's exactly what Flashes of Hope does.
Scott Chester is one of several professional photographers who donate their time to take the portraits at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Aflac Cancer Center.
Flashes of Hope is a nonprofit whose mission is simple, to take portraits of children battling cancer and give them to their families.
"I'd see these people all having their pictures taken," Mom Stephanie Skelly said. "And I'd think 'Oh gosh James doesn't..I don't know if I want pictures of this'."
James Skelly had leukemia. A few years ago he had his first Flashes of Hope portrait done.
"As soon as the flash went off, he said 'Oh I'm a star'," Skelly said.
So his doubtful mother became a believer in the power of a picture.
"I think it makes them feel special for a good reason, not because they're in the middle of something awful but because they're still people, and it's worth photographing them, it's worth recording this and it's what they're going through and the strength that they're showing in the middle of it is worth documenting."
Nasline Tavernier's daughter, 4-year-old Zaida, has endured surgeries and radiation. She wears a hot pink shirt for her photo session, flashing a big grin for the camera.
"She was diagnosed July 31st with Glioblastoma Multi Forming. It's a very severe brain tumor. A lot of times I have to remind Zaida 'You're still pretty even though you don't have any hair. And I just think it's a nice way to capture them even with everything they're going through," Tavernier said.
Sometimes these portraits become a final marker for a family that loses a child.
Today James Skelly is back, in remission, surrounded by his family. Flashes of Hope captures not the illness, but the child.
"I'm trying to get that little spark of happiness in their eyes," Chester said. "You can see it when it comes through."
"There's not a single Flashes of Hope photo I've looked at and thought 'Oh that poor sick child.' I always think 'Wow, look at that grace, look at that strength, look at that beauty, look at that hope.' You want to acknowledge their existence and their effort and the purpose of their life. They all have a purpose in their life," said Skelly.
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