Ever since my battle with cancer I've wanted to do a project to give back to the cancer community. I live just down the street from Lurie Children's Hospital, so towards the end of 2015 I started brainstorming ideas for something I could do with them.
My first thought was that whatever we did, I wanted it to be fun and exciting for the kids. Going to the hospital every day, getting blood draws and chemo, gets so boring. I wanted this project to add a spark to their day and be an experience that they would genuinely enjoy. I was initially thinking of bringing in a bunch of puppies or kittens or something like that, but ultimately had to throw out these first thoughts because it wouldn't be safe for kids with depleted immune systems. Finally I settled on the idea of bringing in a bunch of costume pieces and allowing the kids to dress themselves up as whatever 'superhero' they wanted to be.
I'd never really worked with kids this age before and it was definitely an interesting experience! Having so many ways they could dress up had different effects on different kids. Some would take your input for what looks good together, but just as many couldn't have cared less what you thought. And more than once, we got a kid completely ready, got them on the sweep, took one picture and they'd suddenly yell, "hold on!" and sprint back over to the couches for a costume change.
It was great watching the kids have fun and seeing the project come to life, but the most rewarding part of this shoot was talking to the parents. One mother thanked me for being there and told me about how their morning had been a complete nightmare and how her son had been nauseous and complaining the whole way to the hospital. But he completely transformed the second he discovered that he could be a superhero. I'm pretty sure he did about 5 costume changes and I would have never known how horrible he was feeling based on my time with him.
I love doing projects like this that are fun to shoot and meaningful as well. Ultimately the goal for this project was to help transform the attitudes of these kids and help them see themselves as strong. I think that attitude plays a huge role in overcoming so much in life and I hope that these images serve as an ongoing inspiration for everyone involved in this project.