A photograph is worth a thousand words. It is a way of capturing a moment to share with our friends and family for years to come. It is a tool to peer into the past for a second to remember a feeling we may have forgotten (who doesn’t love warm fuzzies?!). Photography dates back to the mid 1800s, but has advanced quite beautifully so that now we can instantly share our moments (ta-da!). However, what if your family is focused on something else and the thought of capturing a beautiful moment is simply lost in mid air? Downtown St. Pete has a resident photographer who is doing much more for the community than simply taking pictures. Sheri Kendrick is the founder of Little Light of Mine, a non-profit organization that provides complimentary photography for families who have children fighting a life-threatening illness.
I met Sheri Kendrick a few times in passing and always thought that her free spirit was truly captivating. Once I heard about her organization, I immediately knew that I wanted to sit down with her to find out how her passion of photography has grown to touch hundreds of families in such a unique way.
The first time she had a photoshoot with someone who was losing their life was with a veteran in hospice who was in his early 70s. She described him as good-looking with a salt and pepper beard and if you saw him, you wouldn’t know he was dying. Sadly, he was and his wife desired photos of their later days together. Sheri got the man and his wife to embrace (but not a silly prom prose – a genuine hug) and laugh together in a completely candid way. The images were magical, but his wife was extremely grateful for the photographs and experience because it had been so long since they hugged each other and shared a happy moment. It was almost as if he wanted his wife to have these images because unfortunately, he passed away the day after the photoshoot. His family displayed the photos at the funeral and they were all thankful to have them.
Learning what these photos meant to that particular woman, Kendrick knew she wanted to volunteer in a field where she could use her skill set and help the community.
“My passion is children so this was a good fit for me!” A mother of two precious youngersters (Jaeden, 14, and Molly, 7) decided to start her organization in 2014 in Saint Petersburg, Florida.
What does Little Light of Mine mean?
Sheri says that it just takes patience to break through in the photoshoot. Some of the kids are wheelchair bound or nonverbal. She tries to get any expression out of the children, but it proves to be difficult because the camera is in front of her face. She learned to poke her head from behind her camera and make eye contact and perhaps a silly face (she is great at being goofy and brightening up a room). The children almost always end up smiling and she sees something turn on even just for a second! That’s how she came up with the name Little Light of Mine, because “every little child has a little light inside of them,” she says – and she’s proven that she has the gift of turning that light on.
The families of these children are so focused on the next doctor’s appointment, looking at what is on the medical equipment screen, or scheduling the next treatment for their little one that they tend to forget to take a few snapshots of their baby prince or princess. It is tragic, but some of these children lose their battle with the illness and mommy and daddy are left with only the memories. Thankfully, Little Light of Mine are the photo fairies who come in so that the families will have photos of their beauties to hold onto. However, some win the horrible battle and can look back at the photos so see how far they have come.
One case in particular, there was a 13-year-old girl who Sheri went to photograph in the hospital. Although this young lady was waiting for a heart transplant, she was so excited to see the photos! The sessions give them something to look forward to – something to smile at – a sense of hope.
With referrals from All Children’s Hospital, The Children’s Dream Fund, word of mouth, and their most recent partner – Pediatrics Hospice Group, Little Light of Mine photographed about 150 children in the first year. The organization has grown from solely Sheri managing and shooting to four board members (Sybil Faylo, Nick Mazeika, and Liza Garcia) and a handful of photographers.
Little Light of Mine is a touching organization that definitely deserves more recognition and of course, is in dire need of funding. As a non-profit they have fees to cover and could use your help!
How can you help?
Attend the Little Light of Mine Official Launch Party at historic venue NOVA 535 on November 19, 2015 6:30pm – 9:30pm in Downtown St. Pete (huge thanks to Michael Novilla for donating the space for the event!). There will be live music by Rob Irie Pieniak of Buffalo Strange, an interactive drum circle led by Steven Turner of Giving Tree Music, food servings from local restaurants, a silent auction, and even a “Little Light-Tini” cocktail for you to enjoy. All proceeds from this event go to Little Light of Mine. Purchase your VIP tickets today to contribute to this heart-warming organization!
Sheri Kendrick is also a member of Entrepreneur Social Club hosted at NOVA 535 every Thursday night 6pm to 8pm. Join the club to network, collaborate and do business with others as great as she is!
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