January 23, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Page Kyrcz
When 17-year-old Lynn Aureli looks at the photographs that hang in her living room now, she appreciates how far she has come in the last year.
The images show her without hair as the result of chemotherapy. In one, her skin looks luminous and she smiles for the camera.
While Aureli was receiving treatment at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Flashes of Hope, based in Cleveland, Ohio, arranged for the photo shoot, which included a professional photographer, local makeup artist and hair stylist, prints and a CD of all the photographs.
“It’s a gift,” said Heidi Carmigiano, Flashes of Hope chapter manager. “It’s to create an uplifting time for these kids that are in the hospital. They have so many times that are less than pleasant and it gives them a chance to be a kid and it gives the families an opportunity to have a gift of their child’s picture when they wouldn’t either have the time or the resources to have it done.”
For more information about Flashes of Hope, visit www.flashesofhope.org.
The organization, founded in 2001 by parents of children with cancer, has chapters in 55 cities, including the one in Hartford. Although all the photographers and hair salons donate their services, there is always fundraising necessary.
On Jan. 30, Chester-based photographer Caryn B. Davis and her husband, Leif Nilsson, will host “Cocktails for a Cause” at the Leif Nilsson Gallery in Chester. All proceeds will be donated to Flashes of Hope. Owned by the couple, the gallery showcases Nilsson’s impressionist paintings and Davis’ photography. The gallery website is www.nilssonstudio.com.
Aureli, a senior at Rocky Hill High School, remembers fondly the day of her photo shoot. It coincided with the day, last September, when she was being discharged after a month of inpatient care at Connecticut Children’s. With her hair growing back and college to look forward to she appreciates the photos.
“It was nice that they really encouraged me to take my wig off, which at the time I wasn’t really comfortable with,” remembered Aureli. “But now I’m really glad that they told me to do that because looking back, the pictures of me bald are my favorite pictures.”
Asked why, Aureli paused to think about it and said, “I don’t really have many pictures of me bald, so looking back it’s kind of nice to see them and it shows how far I’ve come.”
All photographs are black and white, explained Carmigiano. “One of the main reasons we do the images in black and white is because…it really makes everybody just look kind of like they’re healthy.”
“They’re beautiful. The children are beautiful,” said Davis. “Whether they have hair or not, whether they have color in their cheeks, whatever is going on…their courage, and their spirit just came through.”
The gallery hosts many community events throughout the year and Davis feels a special connection to Flashes of Hope through her volunteer work taking photographs at The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford.
Davis gets emotional talking about her photo shoots with the children attending the camp and their families. “I was moved,” she said.
Genevieve Aureli, Lynn’s mother, said while it was billed as a photo shoot it was so much more.
“A lot of pictures were taken and you felt beautiful,” she said. “All girls like that kind of thing. On a day to day basis, when you’re going through chemo that’s not the top thing on your mind and it was just wonderful.”
In addition to photographs with her family, Aureli chose to be photographed with her physician, Connecticut Children’s Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Kerry Moss.
Moss started the Flashes of Hope chapter at Connecticut Children’s. This is currently the only Connecticut chapter. She feels strongly about the organization and the importance of it in the lives of families dealing with sick children.
“The moms that get photographed, we do hair and makeup for them. So here you are, you’ve been living in the hospital fighting this illness and then a volunteer person comes in and starts to do your makeup and your hair…just that touch and that kindness, it’s the whole package for these families.”
This was certainly true for the Aureli family. “It’s just a wonderful organization,” said Genevieve Aureli. “I can’t say enough about it. It’s good for self image and feeling good about yourself after being through something horrible.”
“It was really nice break from my treatments,” said Aureli. “It was something fun. Something to look forward to.”
Cocktails for a Cause will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Jan. 30 at the Leif Nilsson Gallery at the Chester House, 1 Spring St., Chester. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at https://cocktailsforacausechester.eventbrite.com or at the door the day of the event. Snow date is Feb. 6 6-8 p.m.
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