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Welcome to the blog of LJReed Photography!! I am sure you're wondering how I could possibly incorporate more pictures on my site but there is an entire other side that I want you to see!!
My passions include writing, giving back and photography and I have compiled them all together in a variety of ways! It's like my way of giving you and image and being able to feel the warmth in it! I want you to feel like you were at the event or session when you are done. I hope that it sparks something inside of you whether it be a memory that makes you smile, the push to call an old-friend, or to just remember to live in every moment and ALWAYS. TAKE. THE. PICTURE.
I am so fortunate to know so many wonderful people that love the world and devote their entire lives to making everyone else's better. I am in awe of their gifts, their love, their drive. Three traits that I strive to perfect nearly half as well as they did. I thank them for putting trust in me to capture their events that mean so much to them. I thank them for allowing me to learn from them. And most of all, I thank them for being on this journey with me, my photography wouldn't mean anything if I couldn't use it in every way possible.
One endeavor that I am really looking forward to is combining my photography within the Addiction and Recovery field. I feel as if those in recovery are skipped over because of the stigma that (somehow) still lingers with Substance Use Disorder. The gears are turning and I will find a way to make an impact, someway, somehow.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
– Mother Teresa
"You are my sun, my moon and all of my stars." - E.E. Cummings
Norwin School District
I am not sure that being a PTA mom was on my list of dreams to be when I grew up but I became everything that a PTA mom is without the mini-van! If there was an event at the elementary school when my children were there, I WAS THERE!! Sign me up! Put me in coach!! It was a lot of work but it was so rewarding and created the most amazing memories for me as a stay-at-home-mom. I hope that my kids cherish them one day as much as I do!
Not only was I fortunate enough to be asked to photograph a variety of events and awards for the Norwin School District, but I also put together 5 yearbooks between two different schools!! Being able to produce a memory of that magnitude is indescribable, at least for someone like me. People look at their yearbooks for decades upon decades, it becomes a part of them; and I was able to provide that for hundreds of kids....WOW.
This particular event pictured below was such a sweet moment. All of the graduating seniors put their caps and gowns on and went back to their respective elementary schools. They walked through the halls of the school with teeny tiny hands waving at them like they were some celebrities. Teachers hoping out of line to hug a former student. I am smiling at the memory. This is why I love what I do. I get to see these things, I get to feel them, see the innocence of a group of 18 year old kids picturing those hallways full of their tiny faces, remembering how those very small hallways once seemed so large. It sends me back to being the scared kid in a big school to remembering the day that I got to speak at my graduation ceremony a mere 15 years ago... Those big kids ran right to the playground where they probably enjoyed it more than they ever had, not knowing or thinking that the next time that they're on those swings they might have a baby on their lap or a child in the building behind them.
These are the moments that matter. These are the reasons I will always share my gift with everyone when they need me.
The Brave Face Project - A mom and her babies....
"With brave wings she flies."
A pillar in the community. A smiling face. A brave soul. Selfless. Loving. Kind. Fighter. Granddaugther. Daughter. Aunt. Sister. Wife. And most importantly, Mom. You didn't need to know Maria personally to know that she was all of those things, you knew because everyone loved her and then when they needed to, fought with her.
I was so thankful they allowed me to go into their home and capture everyday memories for them. (TBFP captures real, fun, awesome moments for families struggling through certain hardships and illness.) Memories I hope that the boys can cherish forever. Memories, that they can see and smile.
I can replay this session in my mind like it was yesterday. We laughed, I cried, Nathan swung from the ceiling and JJ just rolled his eyes wondering when that kid would stop. Maria just smiling, soaking it all in. Brian hating on her last paint-and-sip masterpiece, nerf guns and swinging. They told me their story as they both looked at each other thankful and amused.
This is just one shot of the series from that day, but seemed fitting for their family. They laughed when they needed, hugged and had all the love surrounding them.
Please think of them as they start this new chapter.
Maria, you will be missed by so many but your boys have so much love and memories surrounding them that you will never, ever be forgotten. Thank you for showing us what the real meaning of bravery and purpose is.
Mommy & Me for Lisa's Loves
Team name and logo created by Lindsay.
“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” – Maya Angelou
Many of you already know that Lisa Sczcepankowski was recently diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. We got an overwhelming amount of support and money with the bracelets but I wanted to do more!!
First, I want to explain to you who Lisa and her family are to me. I was their primary babysitter for Taylor and Connor starting when they were 3 and 1. Lisa and Bobby instantly treated me like family and their home was my second home. I could go to them with anything and they would help and guide me through it, a second set of parents.
Watching Taylor and Connor grow up into amazing young adults was and is such an honor. We've always considered each other like siblings. I love that they feel they can turn to me with anything because Lisa provided me that growing up. I am so happy that now they both babysit for me and play a role In my kid's lives. Cameryn and Landon adore them and Nick and Ally. Connor also has a nice love affair with out yellow lab, Harley!
I'm a stay at home mom and when Cameryn was about 18 months old she needed more interaction with kids. I was so afraid to leave her and the only person (aside from grandparents) that I was comfortable with watching her was Lisa. Lisa watched her one morning a week for me to grocery shop, roam target or schedule an appointment. I am so thankful that Lisa got to share that with Cameryn.
I would do anything for the 4 of them and I know that there are a lot of others that feel the same way. Lisa has always loved me unconditionally so these are just small ways that I can show her how much I love her!!
A small portion of the proceeds will go to the Cancer Caring Center and YACS as they continue to support young adults battling cancer.
The Brave Face Project
Brayden on his first birthday!!
From the time I was very little I have always wanted a way to give back...have my own charity, something of the sort. Nothing ever seemed to fall into place, but recently it did!! I am so happy and honored to take everyone's family photographs and capture special moment's in your lives, but I have added a new project that is very near and dear to my heart and cannot wait to share this with everyone.
It is so hard to lose focus about what is really important around the holiday's and with all of the hustle and bustle, we tend to forget how lucky and blessed we really are. I had the absolute honor to photograph some families that are currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh for various reasons, and I am very pleased to share with you, the Brave Face Project.
The Brave Face Project was inspired by the absolute bravest boy that I know and am lucky enough that he is my nephew, Brayden John Ellis. Bridget, my sister-in-law was just 16 weeks when she and my brother Brad, found out their baby was diagnosed with Myelomeningocele Spina Bifida. It was such a shock to Brad and Bridget, their other two children, Madelyn and Ryan, and our entire family. But, with the help of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Brayden was given a chance that not many get.
Bridget and Brayden were accepted into a study that would relocate them 4 hours away from home to Philadelphia. They underwent surgery when Brayden was just 19 weeks in-utero. This little miracle is considered ‘twice born’!
Because Bridget and Brayden needed round the clock care in a city that was on the complete opposite side of the state, the Ronald McDonald House became their home-away -from-home for the next 4 months.
I have heard of the RMH and at times threw some spare change into the bin underneath the drive-thru window during a quick McDonald’s trip after a soccer or baseball practice but that was all of the knowledge that I had about the organization.
Well, let me tell you what a life changing thing they offer to people who are experiencing the utmost pain, heartache, and fear as they watch their child(ren) battle for their lives. The RMH gave my brother and his family somewhere safe to stay while they faced the unthinkable.
Brayden was born August 20th, 2013 at 31 weeks and 5 days at a whopping 3 pounds!!! He was in the NICU preceding his birth and arrived home to Pittsburgh at the beginning of October. No-one knows what to expect with a baby, especially after a diagnosis like this but in pure Brayden fashion, he is letting nothing stop him and runs around like a little maniac. He has the most infectious laugh and silly faces. He is caring and kind and everything that you’d want in your family.
Throughout Brayden’s journey I was having bracelets made as a fundraiser and I needed a perfect name for this cause. The slogan that will be around every time this miracle is spoken about. I randomly looked up what the name ‘Brayden’ meant…
“The name Brayden is of Irish origin and means both "brave" and “salmon”." (salmon??? It's my favorite fish so I left it in the description lol!!)
‘BE BRAYDEN BRAVE’.
I found the perfection I was looking for!!!!
After they had arrived home we were at my parent’s house talking about how happy we were that they were home for holidays. Everyone was so happy that he was here and that Madelyn and Ryan didn’t have to split time between the two cities anymore. Then, as the discussion moved to other families they had met and certain situations we began saying things like, ‘thank goodness you’re home now so the kids can do this….’ ‘Thank goodness you’re home now because how could you have gotten this done…’ Everything we were talking about was regarding families that had older children that also needed care. I randomly said to Bridget, ‘how would you even get a photo of your baby if you couldn’t leave? And the holidays are coming…That’s horrible. Memories are so important…’
And this is where the Brave Face Project was born!!
The Brave Face Project has photographed some very brave faces. Parent’s facing the struggle of their infant needing a kidney, a mom with terminal cancer playing in the backyard with her babies, and infinite amounts of people that come together for a variety of causes.
I wish I could put into words the feelings I have when I do these things but I can’t, it’s impossible.
But it feels as though my heart grows bigger and beats with more purpose after I give back in any shape or form.
Now check out some of these beautiful AND BRAVE families.
This girl...how amazing... These necklaces all have a bead..every bead shows a time that she was poked, touched, had an I.V., etc. and these were just her necklaces for this trip to Pittsburgh!! Such an amazing strong young lady!
The Front Steps Project
Over $1700!!!! Can you believe it?!?! $1700 that YOU GUYS GENEROUSLY DONATED TO FAMILIES IN NEED!!!!
THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!!!
I got to do a thing today. A thing that made me tear up, smile, laugh and learn what children think of their birthday and what makes them so special.
Megs, thank you for picking me to photograph this event for you. You are one of the most caring, kind and thoughtful person that I have ever met. Your personality is contagious and I have been filled with joy all day!
Today, a local school in McKeesport got to shop in the 'birthday boutique' for new clothes, pajamas and hair bows!! This month Beverly's Birthdays celebrated the October birthdays.
If you know me, I LOVE my own birthday and always ask everyone when their special day is, too. So you can only imagine how happy I was that it was totally appropriate to ask 80 children when they got to celebrate. We had two birthday's today and only one that falls on halloween! (He wasn't nearly as excited as the entire crew was!!) And I kept waiting for someone to say October 22nd, my dad's birthday, but no one shared his special day.
The children came out in full smiles; I parked them next to the 'birthday boutique' to capture their 'biggest birthday smiles' and sent them off to shop. One little girl was so giddy that I thought her spirit fingers were going to fall off and her cheeks explode.
When asked why your own birthday was so special, I truly imagined that most would focus on the gift and present part. Nope. A majority of the kids said that they thought their day was special because they got to share it with their family and friends. |insert tears|
The children left the 'birthday boutique' with a duffle bag full of goodies, more warmth in their hearts, and at the very least, a day, a moment, a morning, that was totally for them!!!!
Please, I am begging you, if you are not familiar with Beverly's Birthdays, look them up. Such a simple concept that can change a life forever. So thankful to be included in such a special thing.
#bekind #kindnessmatters #spreadthelove #everylittlebithelps #lovewins
“LOVE AND KINDNESS ARE NEVER WASTED. THEY ALWAYS MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”
Race For Grace 2022
Pictured: Grace Ekis's immediate family and grandparents.
There are truly no words to explain the atmosphere of 'The Race for Grace', if you were there today, you know. If you weren't, please put it on your list to attend next year!
There was a band, a warm-up, a 5k race and walk, dancers, hair donations, baskets, food, and more. But the most important thing there was the feeling of unconditional love and support in the air.
You could just feel it.
And per the usual, right as 'Amazing Grace' was about to start, the sun started to appear and shine down on the event.
(total chills the entire time!!!)
Than you to the entire 'RFG' community and the Ekis Family for trusting me to capture this wonderful event. I will be back as long as you'll have me!
You can still donate to this wonderful cause today and any other day that you should wish, just follow the link, https://www.reflectionsofgrace.org/index.php/donate
Young Adult Survivors United Golf Outing 2022
This past Saturday, I had the honor of photographing the 2nd Annual Young Adult Survivors United Golf Outing! It was amazing. It was emotional. It was fun. It was mind-blowing.
What was mind-blowing about this event, you may ask?
The things that we are missing day-in and day-out in this world. But for 6 hours on Saturday, roughly 500 people felt all of these emotions and more, thanks to one person, Stephanie. The founder and executive director of YASU.
The images that I am sharing first with you will hopefully give you some insight to these emotions.
First, get you a friend like Steph. Immediately. Luckily, she’s been mine for about 20 years!! She kicked the hell out of cancer at the age of 20, right when we were in the middle of college.
(I’ll give you the quick run-down of how YASU was founded.)
Steph realized that there was nothing; no programming, no support, etc, to aid in young adults that were supposed to be flourishing on their own in college, or getting married, having babies, yet facing a cancer diagnosis. Taking semesters off from college for chemo, leaving newborns at home while they underwent treatments and scans. And that is where YASU was founded!! She is able to provide grants for things like rent, hospital bills, date nights, groceries, etc.
Things that we take for granted everyday.
The pictures below depict some wonderful moments.
The one thing that I see the most is Steph’s smile. It’s always been that beautiful and radiant but when I see it now, my heart beams with pride for her.
The first photo is in loving memory of one of her group members, Raelene, who passed away just 3 days after the golf outing last year. Notice the butterflies on her sign?!?! Well, as Steph was speaking of this beautiful ray of sun, a butterfly softly flew into the tent, right past Steph and the group of cancer survivors lined up next to her. To say that everyone was shocked would be an understatement. Chills everywhere.
Then, there’s a photo of Steph’s mom. If you’re a mom, I really don’t need to say how she feels. I can’t even imagine what is going through her mind as she watches her youngest child change the society of young adults with cancer. She never took her eyes off of her.
Next up is Tara. Tara is a melanoma survivor and we were lucky enough to hear her story. The message I took from her story was to be your own advocate. Fight for what you know and believe. She is lucky that she did this for herself, it saved her life. I was speaking with Tara afterwards and as she told me the hardships that she is still facing at the young age of 32 is so disheartening. I wish I could bottle up everything that I could to help her, help them all.
(BUT WE CAN HELP IF WE DONATE TO YASU!!!!)
As they began to announce the winners of the outing, foursomes came to collect their winnings, sat down and then walked their monetary winnings and donated them right back to YASU. Then, it just kept rolling.
One golfer won a beautiful flower arrangement, walked over and donated it to a lovely volunteer. You can see her tears as she was so taken aback and thankful for the kind gesture.
This people, is what it’s all about. Forgetting about what’s on TV, politics, social media and coming back down to the core of life. Remembering, that everyone is struggling in some way, shape or form. Remembering that one small thing can save a person from their worst day on earth or encourage them to pass it along.
Thank you, Steph, for reminding me the true value of life.
I will love you forever, friend.
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