During a session I was shooting for Project Childhood, whose goal was to create a unified front among professional photographers in order to accomplish one goal: TO CELEBRATE CHILDHOOD, I had an incredible eye opening moment. In fact, it was a moment that opened my heart to something much grander than what I had set out to achieve. It was from this simple project that The Dream Calendar was born…
The mission of Project Childhood was to be realized by providing a free session to a child who might not normally be able to have this experience and then to donate what would have been collected to a charity of choice.
I first met Julia, a blonde headed beauty at my church, working with the children’s department on Wednesday nights, but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered her story. Julia comes from an amazing family, deeply rooted in their faith with a hope that springs forth in their smiles and sparkles in their eyes. They are solid, unwavering and an inspiration to many.
Julia has spina bifida and spends a great deal of her time riding in her “wheels,” as she calls them. They never slow her down or dampen her spirits. She cruises with joy everywhere she goes. While growing up with this condition might seem like enough of a journey for such a young girl, Julia’s story runs even deeper. Her father was diagnosed with cancer at about the same time this terrible disease was detected in her younger brother. Her father is in remission, but Sammy lost his battle at the tender age of 5.
When I heard about Project Childhood, I could think of no better candidate than Julia! Trying to keep this as a surprise for her mom, I enlisted her older sister Hannah to help me out with all the details. I learned of Julia’s passion for dressing up and brought along hats, tiaras and feather boas to capture her during this fleeting stage of childhood.
I was humbled as I watched Hannah gently lift and carry Julia to different locations in the gardens, so she could “pose without her wheels.” The love and devotion lived out by this example of selflessness inspired me. Smiles captivated me that afternoon in ways I had never imagined. Laughter ringing through the air mesmerized me. You see, joy speaks in the simplest of ways. Hope, gives even those with heavy hearts moments to sparkle and shine. Faith, holds us tightly and allows us to know there is a greater purpose though momentarily we might not even see it.
It is with this same evidence of joy and hope that I selected my charity, Clouds of Hope. The Blain’s recently founded this organization, after their 4 year old daughter, Allie, was diagnosed with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), which results in extremely low platelets in the blood. Rather than bitterness and anger, the Blain’s have kept every ounce of peace, faith and love in their hearts. They established Clouds of Hope with the following mission:
“Believing that God has called us to give back, Clouds of Hope is a nonprofit organization committed to providing support for groups and organizations who care for families of children dealing with life altering illnesses.”
Recently, the Blain’s hosted an event, A Friend for Daisy, inspired by their daughter’s desire to give back to the clinic which she frequently visits. Daisy, is a puppet whose purpose is to help children understand difficult procedures they will have to endure for effective treatments. Allie wanted the boys to have a puppet all their own! The event was a complete success and Donald has been introduced to Daisy and many children as well!
Their newest endeavor is to raise funds to modify playgrounds so children with life altering diseases can experience childhood in a fun, but safe way! They announced this project just days after my session with Julia, and I suddenly realized I wanted to jump on board to help this dream come true.
Therefore, having been inspired in ways I never imagined, I am launching The Dream Calendar. Community members and businesses will be able to sponsor the calendar, by purchasing monthly ads, which will allow 100% of The Dream Calendar Sales to be donated to Cloud’s of Hope’s rebuilding of 2 area playgrounds. Local children, who suffer from a disability or life altering illness will serve as models for the calendar and will receive both a free portrait session and free enlargements, compliments of Annie Agarwal Photography.
I am thrilled and excited. I am inspired and invigorated. Mostly, I am in awe of how God works through various circumstances and events to spur our hearts to give, to love, to share and to make a difference, one life, maybe even one calendar, at a time!
Here’s to Dreaming!