“Marco was born with a broken heart. By the miracle of a heart transplant at 34 days old, Marco received the gift of life, only to face cancer at the age of 4 – which he heroically fought and won.”
Anything is possible. That is the message of photographer Shawn Van Daele. When he was younger, he drew a picture for his grandmother, which he later turned into a “magical ‘real’ photograph.” And an idea was born. Shawn has spent the last two years using his talent to bring smiles to the faces of children that have serious heath conditions. Shawn has traveled around the country bringing the imaginations of sick kids to life with his art. Shawn encourages families to send in a drawing that the child has drawn and he magically makes them into a ‘real’ photograph. He’s helped Marco see the world from a magic apple, Dominic travel through time to play with dinosaurs, and Riley ride on a unicorn.
We’ve featured Shawn and his Drawing Hope project in the past and now, after a successful Indiegogo campaign, the first book is about to be released. Co-written by Shawn’s mother, in honor of Shawn’s biggest fan – his late father – the book is set to be released in the next few months.
Shawn has driven many miles to set up a portrait session with the kids and families and have become friends with the people he has photographed. “The photo shoots are super fun and, when possible, involve lots of jumping, hopping, throwing things in the air, and basically anything that lets them just be kids – and oftentimes messy ones! I hear a lot ‘that was soooooo fun!’ afterwards, and the best shots are the ones where they’re laughing or giggling and smiling, which is so important for kids who spend so much time in hospitals.”
Shawn is planning a trip to Texas next, to visit a family whose 3 year old son Sal is battling a brain tumor. Sal’s father is waiting on a kidney transplant, which Sal’s mother is donating. What a strong and courageous family.
Shawn’s project, Drawing Hope, not only helps kids and families, but strives to raise awareness for each child’s cause and hopefully, encourage people to become organ donors.
“For a few moments in time you have made us forget about all the terrible things our children have gone through, reminding us that our kids can do anything and their futures will be magical,” One child’s mother, wrote to Van Daele. “You gave us hope and strength again, through the other families that we can connect with. You’ve inspired so many.”
Watch Shawn at work a few weeks ago, as he flew to Nevada to meet with 6 very special kids:
To date, Shawn has worked with 30+ kids who have fought illnesses for free. Requests are pouring in and Shawn is trying to figure out a way to help these families and do this full time. There needs to be more people like Shawn in this world.
CREDITS: All photographs shared by Shawn Van Daele are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist