What happens when you give pediatric cancer patients a camera and the skills to use it?
Answer: A gallery of self-expressive photos that speak volumes about how a child views the world.
Thanks to a grant from the LIVESTRONG Foundation Community Impact Project, patients at Akron Children’s Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders were able to participate in the Pablove Shutterbugs photography program, which teaches kids living with cancer to develop their creative voice through the art of photography.
Children’s was one of just 15 sites nationally to qualify for the grant.
“This program was an extraordinary opportunity to expand our patients’ perspective emotionally and creatively,” said Laura Gerak, PhD, psychologist, Akron Children’s Hospital. “It gave our kids another outlet outside of treatment. The kids really enjoyed being together and making a connection with others going through a similar situation.”
Twenty-eight patients, ranging in age from 6 to 19 and stage of cancer treatment, completed the program. During 5-weeks of instruction, kids learned a variety of photography techniques and received hands-on practice during field trips and at-home assignments.
“These kids have so much positive energy,” said Cynthia Penter, a local artist educator and one of 5 teachers participating in the program. “A program like this makes you realize how great the community really is – from the volunteers and families to the museum and hospital. It was wonderful to see how everyone came together to support these kids.”
Upon completion of the program, each child received an electronic portfolio of their work, one framed photo and a camera to keep. The program culminated with a photo gallery at the Akron Art Museum where each child had his best piece on display for a free public viewing.
As for the artists, the photo gallery offered them an opportunity to stand with pride next to their works of art and reflect on the program.
“It (Pablove photography program) helped me forget about things,” said Marissa Appleby, 17.
For Ashlee Provchy, 17, she said, “It gave me a new perspective on how to view the world.”
Briana Salyers, 14, added, “It was a great way to get out of not thinking about treatment.”
Other budding artists like Kaela Keller, 19, said, “The program gave me a way to look at the world outside of the hospital … to look at how beautiful this earth is. I was amazed how we could all take pictures of the same things yet see it and capture it so differently. Photography will always be part of my life.”
Among the youngest artists, Cael Williams, 8, enjoyed going on the field trips and learning how to use different camera modes.
But, when asked if he wants to be a photographer when he grows up, he said, “I’ve got bigger plans in mind.”
What ‘it’ is, he’s not quite sure, but rest assured he’ll know how to capture it on film when he does.