By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Jan. 21, 2013
When your child is sick and your family is struggling to cope with it, getting family pictures wouldn’t strike as a priority.
And so it was for the Razanno family, whose five year old son Emilio was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).
It left him with a raft of medical issues, even as the family tried its best to ensure a normal upbringing.
Still, hiring a professional photographer to take pictures was far from Pam Razzanno’s thoughts when she saw a poster for Helping Hearts in the hospital.
Helping Hearts is a project created by Melissa Knowles of Mission, B.C., and Michelle Regner of Oliver, B.C.
Helping Hearts, which started in 2010, provide free photography sessions for families with children who are suffering a life-altering illness or disability.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Knowles said they launched Helping Hearts for B.C. photographers, but enthusiasm from photographers in other parts of Canada prompted them to take their organization national.
Helping Hearts now has over 200 photographers who have collectively helped over 200 families.
Razanno’s family is one among the 200 families.
Within days of filling the form, Pam was contacted by Monique Napier, a Squamish based wedding and family photographer who volunteers for Helping Hearts.
On a sunny afternoon of 2011, the family went up to Shannon Falls, where Napier spent one hour taking pictures of the family.
She even handed over the camera to Emilio, letting him take some pictures of his family.
The pictures now adorn the walls of the Razzano family home.
Razzano is thankful to Napier and Helping Hearts for this wonderful opportunity.
“We would have never had the time or the money to afford this photo session,” said Razzano.
Amanda Gray also decided to contact Helping Hearts after her son was hospitalized for 5 days because he could not move any part of his body.
Gray said the photo has given her family the opportunity to get family photos done while her son was still in good health.
“It is great for families like mine where our children have rare diseases and we don’t know what their future holds for them,” Gray said.
Her family pictures were also taken by Monique Napier.
As a photographer, Napier said taking pictures for families with sick kids is gratifying.
Napier first learned about Helping Hearts through a fellow photographer in Richmond.
Napier said the photographs really touched her, and she decided to volunteer.
When she contacted Helping Hearts, she was told there was no one from Squamish photographer on board yet.
She decided to be the first one.
The Helping Heart photos session is free, although the cost of hiring Napier for a family photo session can be as much as $300.
Most families spend most of their time and money on hospital bills, and hiring a professional photographer can be seen as a luxury, Napier said.
“I feel lucky to give the gift of photography,” she said.