ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — A North Carolina-based nonprofit that offers free portraits to families facing a life-altering condition says they are looking to expand their efforts into Hampton Roads, Virginia.
The Love Project Portraits, founded in 2015, has given free portrait sessions to 20 families so far, but the executive director hopes to reach all families in crisis across the region.
“Families that are going through medical crises typically have a lot of appointments and a lot of trips to the hospital,” said Virginia Madden. “They don’t normally have the time or take the time to stop and say, ‘hey let’s take a family portrait, we may want this in the future.’”
The organization has helped people diagnosed with conditions ranging from cancer, to cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy.
“I don’t want any family to live with that regret that, ‘we never took the time to get a family picture,’” said Madden.
Madden says she thought of the idea for the nonprofit after her best friend, Cindy, died from cancer in 2010. Madden says she offered to take portraits of Cindy’s family, but she never got to do so before she passed away.
“She said, ‘let’s do it in the spring when everything is green.’ I said, ‘no, Cindy, let’s do it now.’ She said, ‘no, I really want to wait.’ Well, four weeks later she passed away and we never got to take those pictures.”
Since then, Madden and eight other volunteer photographers have committed to capturing lasting memories for as many families as possible.
Doctors diagnosed 11-year-old Erin Howe with leukemia last year. In April, Madden took pictures of Erin and her family in Hampton. “It makes the person like my daughter that’s going through cancer feel very special,” said Sherry Howe.
While hospital visits and daily doses of medication have become routine for the Howe family, Madden says their struggle should be remembered in a positive light.
“We want them to have memories of this time,” said Madden. “She is beating cancer and we want that to be a positive memory for them.”
The power of a picture is hard to describe, unless you don’t have some of your own.
“I don’t have a family picture from when I was a child,” said Madden. “I don’t have any. For me, that’s sad that I can’t share with my children what my family looked like.”
Luckily, clients helped by The Love Project Portraits will always have pictures to treasure. Madden says she gets satisfaction from knowing others are receiving something they’ll cherish forever. “It’s just nice to know that in the future they can look back and go, ‘I remember that time when that photographer took time for me and for my family.”
The Love Project Portraits, Inc. is looking for additional volunteer photographers, especially in Hampton Roads, in order to help more families.