Sunday, May 29, 2011

Giving Back :: Joni & Friends Family Retreat 2010

Sooooo... somewhere in the chaos of last summer it seems I posted the images from Joni & Friends Family 2010 Retreat to Facebook, but missed putting them on the blog~ hence, a post of last year's JAF Retreat at Spruce Lake Retreat in the Poconos, just a few weeks away from my upcoming return to capture another week filled with fun, laughter, and an indescribable love that envelops this time. The theme for 2010 was "More than imagined" and truly, it was!

For the families, it's kind of like a cruise, but on land~ all of the activities are planned out, they just show up and enjoy the food and festivities without having to plan all the parts of vacation in addition caring for a loved one's special needs. Sometimes the camper is a child with mental or physical challenges, and  others are adults with disabilities resulting from an accident or disease.

In trying to choose some images to share here on the blog, it was tough because I have many favorites as I got to know the people in these images.... some carry burdens that are mostly lifted during a week that looks a bit like I picture heaven to be~ everyone coming together and being included in fun activities and not being viewed as limited or different~ but being loved and cared for... it is true that by the end of the week it is hard to tell who is a camper and who is a volunteer~ it becomes a cohesive community of Christ which is just beautiful to watch and be part of.

I tried find images that could best tell the "story" of the week~ to see more (and get a better sense of what Joni & Friends Family Retreat is all about) click on this link:  Circle of Life Photography on Facebook

Below, staff members wash and bless the Short Term Missionary's hands to go and serve:

Families are greeted with their choice of a "loud" or "soft" greeting upon arrival:

JAF Retreat Program Director, Sib Charles, started off the retreat popping out of the storybook:

Much to the surprise of Program Manager, Joan Barton :-)

Happy times like these abound~ water fun during the hot days~
and much patience and humor from the Short Term Missionaries!

Almost everyone is able to enjoy the water tubes down the hill~ the smiles from children
who spend most of their time in wheelchairs is just priceless:

The talent show is a huge hit~ everyone is involved and has a blast. From musicians to skits and everything in between, it is a memorable night~ below the girls do a skit to the song "Car Wash":

Another talent show wonder: this young boy below is a true miracle~ for a child with many challenges including speech, he clearly sang the verses to "How Great Thou Art," which his father sang to him every night in the NICU. Needless to say, there we few dry eyes in the house!

Finding the hangouts of young campers and seeing their joyful faces was a fun part of my week~
one of many touching stories was a young mother, who at the end of the week spoke in front of the camp about how her family had been blessed by attending the JAF Retreat~ she was just amazed at the outpouring of patience and love for her child, that no one blinked an eye when her child ran onstage during worship~ and, in her words, "you actually LIKE my child!" Everyone laughed, but at the same time everyone 'got it'~ it's challenging living in a world that expects perfection and has little patience when things don't go according to plan. Here, everyone fits in.

Making friends~ even with social challenges, strong bonds between campers and their Short Term Missionaries are formed by the end of the week:

If these pictures leave you wishing you could find out more about attending or serving
at a Joni & Friends Family Retreat, please click on this link:
Trust me, your life will never be the same!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Commercial Portrait Session :: Whole Wide World Toys

Sometimes God puts some of the most interesting and fun people in my life ~ meeting Laura Barta, owner of Whole Wide World Toys, was another one of those times when I realize it's more than just a business relationship, I am blessed to make a friend in the process. Laura has lived and traveled abroad, and recently published her first book, My China Travel Journal, aimed at teaching kids about everyday life in China. She is currently working on creating additional toys and games to enhance the book, and has a vision for future multi-cultural books and toys as her company grows.

Last year, Laura bid on (and won!) a Circle of Life Photography portrait session silent auction at the Hershey Playhouse annual fundraiser dinner and decided to use it to create portraits for her growing business. Together we chose clothing and accessories that would be professional and represent her company. The session itself was relaxed and fun, and Laura's personality and warmth just really comes through in the images.

Commercial portrait sessions are a valuable investment in creating a professional look for any business~ these digital images are for use in marketing, business cards, websites, submitting for publications, etc. Even though Laura's images were taken at her home in Hershey, PA, they have a timeless, classic look that could be anywhere in the world, which works perfectly for her business!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Giving Back :: Pillows-of-Love 2011 Derby

Clouds and raindrops could not stop another Pillows-of-Love Pillowcase Derby~ each year the weather seems to pose a bit of a challenge, and with all the rain the Northeast has been having the past few weeks/months, prayers were answered when the rain held off just until the end of this fun event :-) The derby was held at the Milton Hershey School grounds on May 1, 2011 and it was great to see such a wonderful turn out of kids and their families.

The Pillows-of-Love ministry is beginning it's 8th year~ founder Kimberlee Jerrehian had a vision that developed into a non-profit organization which now provides beautiful pillowcases and Bibles to women and children who are displaced, in a recovery shelter, a pregnancy center, or an international orphanage. Each pillowcase is handcrafted by a caring volunteer and embellished with the message of Psalm 4:8~ "The Lord will give you sleep, peace and a safe place to dwell." A gift of The New Testament or a children's book about Jesus is included with each domestic pillowcase.

The derby is held each year to raise money for materials and distribution of pillowcases & Bibles. Children hop, skip, walk or run around the track and earn punches on their card. Donated prizes such as stuffed animals, gift cards and items from local businesses were given away to participants throughout the event. Kimberlee created five beautiful quilts to be raffled off at the event. Face painting, balloon creations, paper making, and a cake walk were all part of the festivities.

More on the story behind the ministry can be found here:
as well as images from previous years, and more images from the 2011 event will be added soon.

Please note that all images here are copyright protected and may not be copied or downloaded without permission. You are welcome to bookmark this page, or email me for information on purchasing images. All proceeds from image purchases from this event are given to Pillows-of-Love ministry.


Photo gallery website for proofing and additional info: 

Circle of Life Photography's page on Facebook~ Click HERE to add this page to your favorites!

Michelle Miller allowed me to link to her brilliant post about the art of photographing ... I simply cannot say it better myself! Click HERE to read the post.

Giving Back~ Organizations supported by Circle of Life Photography

In giving back, Circle of Life Photography's main goal is to help those experiencing extreme poverty and nourishing them with food, shelter and spiritual guidance. Education is a big part of helping people learn how to help themselves and change the downward spiral of poverty for a better future for themselves and their children. Locally, a more tangible way of giving back is through using my photography gifts to serve others who are experiencing crisis (see NILMDTS and Pillows of Love.)

Compassion International~ Haiti's Child Survival Project

In 2011-12, Circle of Life Photography makes a monthly $30 donation to the non-profit organization, Compassion International, whose goal is to change Haiti through the rescue, nuture and discipling of children during the critical early childhood years.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation (NILMDTS) gently provides a helping hand and a healing heart for families overcome by the grief and pain of the death of their newborn or infant. Offering gentle and beautiful photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of this organization. The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies are an important part of the healing process. They allow families to honor and cherish their babies, and share the spirits of their lives. I am an active NILMDTS volunteer photographer for Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Lancaster Women & Babies Hospital.

Joni & Friends Family Retreat

I am honored to be a volunteer photographer at the Joni & Friends Family Retreat in the Poconos (Spruce Lake Retreat) for a week each summer (click here for past blog post.) Joni & Friends seeks to serve as a ministry of outreach to people with disabilities and their families across the US and around the world. Families from around the country attend Family Retreats seeking relaxation, encouragement and a time to strengthen their family.