Upcoming Pine fundraiser offers 'Flashes of Hope' to children

December 11, 2013  |  Posted by Rachel Farkas

A Pine woman plans to spread some holiday cheer and raise money for a program that captures special moments in the lives of sick children with a Little Cup of Hope.

Carla Mooney, founder of the Pittsburgh chapter of Flashes of Hope, is hosting a Little Cup of Hope event from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, at the Pine Community Center.

Children of all ages can enjoy story time, face painting, holiday craft stations and a visit from Santa Claus. Proceeds from the event will benefit Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit that organizes professional photographers to take portraits of children who are fighting cancer or other life-threatening illnesses or conditions, Mooney said. Local photographers volunteer their time and services for the monthly photo shoots at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
The portrait sessions are free and catered to the patient's wants and needs. Some children dress up in costume, while others bring in toys or props for their shoots, said Michael Shulock, child life specialist at the hospital.
“Families truly appreciate it because of what it captures,” he said. “The pictures are undeniably heart-touching. It's one of my favorite things that we can do and can offer.” For children who are stuck in their hospital rooms, the opportunity to ham it up for the camera breaks up the monotony of hospital life. “A lot of kids get excited about doing this,” Mooney said. “We bring in makeup artists for each shoot. And some of the girls and their moms like sitting down and feeling a little bit pampered for a bit, so it's fun for them to do.” For parents who have missed out on childhood family portraits because of time and costs related to lengthy hospitalizations, Flashes of Hope provides a way to capture an important part of their child's life. “It's a nice record of your child's journey through this. Every kid that has cancer — it's a journey,” Mooney said. “It shows the strength that they had while going through this.”

Mooney founded the Pittsburgh chapter of Flashes of Hope after her 19-month-old son, Daniel, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2006. Her family was living in Philadelphia at the time he began treatment, and Mooney saw children getting their photos taken with Flashes of Hope at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. After moving back home to Pittsburgh, Daniel began receiving treatment at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Mooney noticed there wasn't a Flashes chapter in Pittsburgh, so she contacted the national headquarters in Cleveland and started one. The first local photo shoot was in April 2008.

Each patient who participates in Flashes of Hope gets a photo package that includes a leather portfolio with prints from the session, a CD with digital photo copies and a photographer's release to reproduce more, which is why fundraising events such as Little Cup of Hope are important.

Daniel, now a third-grader at Richland Elementary, had his last chemotherapy treatment in 2010 and will be considered cured in 2015. Although Daniel no longer is in treatment, Mooney hopes to continue her work with Flashes of Hope and make Little Cup of Hope an annual event.

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