The Brave Face Project

January 08, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

 

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!

H

 


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