When I am not doing this or this I spend time as the
NYC Chapter Director of Flashes of Hope,
a nationwide charity that brings photographers into hospitals to photograph children being treated for cancer.
I have been volunteering with kids for most of my adult life through the NYC Board of Ed as a literacy coach, Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters as a “big”, and AFS hosting and working with foreign exchange students.
I think I saw Flashes of Hope mentioned on Facebook. I had been looking for a way to merge two of my passions, community service with kids and photography. Flashes of Hope provided the perfect opportunity. I submitted myself as an available photographer and when presented with available dates, jumped at the opportunity.
I have shot for Flashes of Hope four times, each experience being different (hospital treatment center, summer camp for kids with cancer, hospital family fun day at a church rec center, and photographing family, friends and clinicians saying goodbye to a child who had just passed away. My passion for the organization grew after each shoot. I was aware that New York did not have an active chapter director so I recently offered my services.
We are constantly inundated with images , most of them trivial and self-indulgent. Flashes of Hope has commercial photographers take truly meaningful photos of children and families in the middle of dealing with a medical crisis. At a Flashes of Hope shoot the patients and their families offer the photographer a wide range of real emotion that normally can’t be captured in a 15 minute session (joy, vulnerability, silliness, sadness… but mostly love). The families are so grateful for the photos that they receive. They don’t realize that they are the ones who are actually doing the giving.
My role as Chapter Director is coordinating photo shoots (dates, photographers, makeup artists, paperwork, etc) and fundraising. At each shoot I am a bit jealous of the working photographer. I wish I could be the one setting up the lights, interacting with the kids and families on set, and creating the beautiful images that will be cherished for a lifetime. The reality is it is a pleasure watching others go through and share that experience.
Throughout my life of volunteering with kids I have found that the more I “give”, the more I get back. I am not good enough with words to describe what it feels like when a child you are working with can finally read a book cover to cover, when your little brother hikes up to a top of a rise and exclaims “I have never climbed a mountain before!” or the teen you have hosted from a foreign country thanks you for the best year of his/her life. Photographers can’t cure a child’s cancer but we can bring joy into lives of people who are having a difficult time. Flashes of Hope helps me realize what a real problem is and appreciate how fortunate and blessed we all are.
Here are some behind the scenes photos I took of volunteer photographer Jayne Wexler shooting at NYU Langone Medical Center.