Today, we celebrate World Cancer Day. The words "celebrate" and "cancer" aren’t typically associated, let alone used in the same sentence. At Flashes of Hope, thanks to the generosity of thousands of photographers, we celebrate kids with cancer every day of the year.
My husband and I founded Flashes of Hope in 2001 during our son’s first battle with cancer. When one of his friends at the hospital passed away, I wondered if his mother had a professional portrait of her son—one that captured his sweet personality.
The simple idea was born that day—bring joy to children with cancer by transforming hospital floors to photography studios and create beautiful portraits for their families. After the first photo shoot, we knew that we had to find a way to give the gift to as many children as possible.
Our dedicated volunteers make children feel like celebrities instead of cancer patients. Stylists carefully apply make-up, often teaching teenage girls how to re-create eyebrows lost to chemotherapy. Music replaces the constant beeping from IV poles. Once in front of the camera, uncertainty gives way to joyful smiles. The photos shoots, filled with laughter, provide a much-needed break from the monotony of hospital stays.
Boston photographer and long-time volunteer Roger Pelissier beautifully described his experience:
When we leave the hospital after a full day, we are exhausted since we go from patient to patient and don’t really have time to decompress. When I look at the images the next day, the experience becomes more emotional. You just want to hug people a little tighter. It’s a very powerful reality check.
When the families receive the photo packages, their kids don’t look sick—instead, the images capture the personalities of their courageous children. The portraits are more than just a picture on the wall—they change the way the children see themselves and are especially treasured by the families that lose their children.
When looking at the images, we see children with an enduring optimism for the future—each one changes our perspective about childhood cancer and the importance of celebrating every day.
Since inception, Flashes of Hope has provided free portrait packages to more than 70,000 children with cancer. With chapters in 45 cities, shoots are held at 108 hospitals and special event locations. Information about how to volunteer and the application can be found at this link.
-Founder, Allison Clarke