Photographers offer 'Flashes of Hope' to local cancer patients .

May 16, 2011  |  Posted by Wendy Rigby / KENS 5

SAN ANTONIO -- Parents of children with cancer don't always have the time or the desire to take pictures. On Monday, May 16, 2011, a group that specializes in portrait of young patients transformed the pediatric oncology unit of a local hospital into a photo studio.

What a difference a few months can make. At the start of the school year, 16-year-old Crista Benavides was a happy, healthy cheerleader at a Laredo high school, enjoying her sophomore classes. Then in October, everything changed.

“I got soft tissue cancer,” she explained. “It was on my hand and then it spread to my back.”
Every three weeks, Benavides travels to CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital for chemotherapy.

Today, though, she was treated to something completely different, a photo shoot courtesy of Flashes of Hope.

The national non-profit group travels the country taking black and white portraits of children with life-threatening illnesses.

“The images are images filled with hope and joy and happiness,” explained Lisa Cencula with Flashes of Hope. “These photo shoots are more of a birthday party experience. We like to focus on the child and not the disease.”

Stylists and make-up artists volunteer their services. A parent of a child with cancer started the program, hoping to provide thousands of flashes of hope after a dark diagnosis.

Families treasure the gift. Crista’s younger sister, Alana, said it will serve as a reminder. “All the hard times, and then when she’s done, being grateful and happy that she finally made it,” 12-year-old Alana said.

Flashes of Hope will be taking photographs each month at Santa Rosa, capturing images they say forever preserve the grace, dignity and beauty of each child.

Since Flashes of Hope started in 2001, the group has taken and given away more than 11,000 portraits.

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