Flashes of Hope focuses on children, puts illness in background

July 15, 2013  |  Posted by Jane Donahue

Sometimes the best medicine isn’t medicine at all. That was the case for 3-year-old Noah Galloy.

The Plainfield boy has atypical mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), a rare, environmental, life-threatening bacterial infection. But during a recent stay at University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, Noah was just a typical toddler getting his picture taken.

“Flashes of Hope was able to capture beautiful pictures of all of us,” said his mom, Jenn, 36. “We felt normal; we didn’t feel like we had been in a hospital day in and day out, and the pictures revealed that. It’s really a wonderful keepsake.”

The portraits were made possible by Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides free photo sessions for children with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses. Their mission: focus on the child and put the illness in the background.

Top photographers donate their time and volunteer stylists make every child and family member feel like a star.

“They make it so simple, coming right into the hospital,” Galloy said. “After spending weeks there, it was rejuvenating for me as well as Noah.”

Founded in 2001, Flashes of Hope has branches in 55 cities and has photographed more than 31,000 children at hospitals and camps across the United States. In 2008, they opened a Chicago chapter.

“We offer a gift of photography for families,” said Carrie Gowans, director of Flashes of Hope Chicago. “It allows them to take a break from their medical treatment and clinical routine. It’s relaxing — the kids are laughing and having fun, and it’s a great memory or a milestone to look back on.”

Gowans, of Glen Ellyn, said since opening in 2008, the Chicago organization has photographed almost 1,500 local children and their families.

She said parents of those battling a life-threatening illness are “superheroes who wear invisible capes,” and if Flashes of Hope can help through photography, they will.

Photographer Jay Crihfield, of Jay Crihfield Photography, said it’s an honor to volunteer his services.

“Flashes (of Hope) sessions are far and away the most rewarding I’ve ever done,” the photographer said. “Even though their days revolve around doctors, nurses, needles and tubes, for the short time I have with them, they appear happy, relaxed, hopeful, and even defiant of the fact that they are facing an illness.”

Galloy agrees, saying their family photo session was a welcome respite during her son’s medical treatment.

“Flashes of Hope helps you escape from the reality of being in a hospital,” she said. “During the session, we forgot Noah was sick. In the pictures, he looks angelic and healthy. I keep going back to those pictures on the days that are so hard.”

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