Childhood cancer is so close to my heart.
When I sat down to interview Jan and Andy Thrower several weeks ago for a piece I was doing on Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for my other big girl job, I instantly made a connection. Their son, Anderson, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 when he was only two years old. Whereas my family did everything but collapse in on itself when my sister was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, the Throwers did something completely different. They were inspired by their journey to start aTeam Ministries, a nonprofit dedicated to providing financial, spiritual and emotional support to children undergoing treatment at Children's of Alabama.
If you've never been on the pediatric cancer journey, you can't imagine what a nightmare it is. Hospital rooms and long, terror-ridden nights. I can remember holding my little sister sobbing while watching St. Jude's infomercials at 5 a.m. Holding her down while she screamed as doctors poked and prodded her. To this day, I still have bad dreams about those times and there is nothing in this world I am more afraid of than her cancer coming back.
The Throwers went through the same thing with Anderson. But instead of focusing that pain inward, Jan and Andy turned around and threw themselves into helping families who were going through the same thing, but who weren't as fortunate to have the means and the support system that they did.
It's awe-inspiring. Seriously. So of course, I wanted to be involved. I gave Andy and Jan my card and told them to call me if they ever needed a photographer for anything. It's so funny how God connects you to people when he does. They immediately asked me what my plans were for the following Thursday night.
One of aTeam's biggest fundraisers is an event called Heart2HeART. They host it each February and they pair up a local artist with a child with pediatric cancer. Together, the artists and the children work to create unique pieces that are then auctioned off at Heart2HeART to raise funding for the ministry. Last week, they hosted a dinner where they introduced the artists to the children they would be working with for Heart2HeART 2016 and asked if I would be interested in shooting some photos for their program.
Interested is of course an understatement for me. I spent the night hanging out with some of the cutest kids, hearing stories of strength and courage beyond your imagination and snapping some awesome photos.
On Saturday, I had the opportunity to shoot a surprise 60th birthday party. Let me just tell you, I love me some surprises! Ed was under the impression that they were going to dinner for his birthday and were just stopping by to pick up a guest. Instead, he was surprised by a house full of his family and closest friends.
You could tell Ed truly had no suspicions. He got a little emotional -- he said at 60 years old, he's never had a surprise birthday party.
The evening was full of laughter and love. It's such a small world -- come to find out, Adrian and I went to school with the homeowner's children many years ago and Adrian had actually been to the house before to go skateboarding. How crazy is that?
Most you who know me personally know that my photography business is a side gig. Pardon me while I chuckle to myself.
I'm chuckling because running your own business is pretty much a full-time job. In my spare time -- also known as 9 to 5 each weekday -- I'm a journalist and photographer for a publication based out of Birmingham. I'm never far from a computer and I spend more time behind a camera than anywhere else most days, but how can you complain about working two jobs when your life is full of doing your favorite things all the time? The answer? You can't.
Most people hate their job -- how lucky am I to work not one, but two jobs that I absolutely love?
Especially on days like today. Today, on an assignment for my "day job", I got to visit Liberty Animal Hospital in Mountain Brook and photograph some of their sweetest babies. If I had to list my favorite things in order, it would probably be photography, writing, and dogs. Of course, macaroni and cheese is also a strong contender.
I am a proud dog mommy -- I have three babies of my own. So you can imagine how much it broke my heart to find out some of the dogs at Liberty Animal Hospital have been there for over a year. A year! Do you know how many licks, cuddles and tennis balls a dog misses out on in a year?
For us, a year is just another blip on the radar, but for a dog, that's a significant portion of their life spent without a place to call home, a lap to drool in, or a flower bed to poop in. Although this is definitely a plug for my animal photography skills (call me if you want a professional someone to roll on the floor with your dogs and enjoy themselves way more than they should) but it's also a call for anyone who may have it in their heart to adopt a doggy this month. If you're interested, visit www.libertyah.com.
Kaitlin Bitz Candelaria
Photographer based out of Birmingham, Alabama. Contact me today for a custom quote.