Capturing Hopes…

Two years ago, I was asked if I wanted to volunteer to take pictures of families and children who were attending the University of Iowa’s annual Dance Marathon benefiting pediatric oncology.  A photographer friend, Blaine Moats, from Meredith was rounding up volunteers to make the trip to Iowa City and his description of the event made it sound  like an amazing experience, not to be missed.  He was right.

The way it all works is that once we photographers are on site we set up backdrops and lights and wait to photograph families and children who are sent to us throughout the day.  We get a chance to take as many images as we can in a short amount of time. Some children are very sick, some are in remission and some are just newly diagnosed.  Most parents don’t have the time or energy to take a sick child to get their photographs done… and that’s where Capturing Hopes comes in.

“Capturing Hopes is a non-profit organization with a passion for helping children battling cancer, or other life threatening illnesses.  Through the power of still images, we honor the unrivaled strength and courage of these children while providing families with a keepsake to treasure—forever Capturing Hopes.”

The photo-based nonprofit was founded by Christie and Brent VanWey when their own family faced cancer with their daughter Mikayla.


“When our daughter was diagnosed with cancer we wanted to do something to give back.  Brent and I searched for what would be the right fit for us but also something that wasn’t being provided to these families. Another cancer family from out of state had shared photos that were taken of their daughter when she is in the middle of treatment and they were the most beautiful pictures I had ever seen.  I wanted those for my daughter and every other cancer family.  Fortunately Mikayla was healthy enough we could go to a studio and get her photos taken (most kids immune systems keep them in hospitals or homebound) and we had the ability to buy these pictures.  I still have the picture of Mikayla, bald as can be jumping victoriously and it makes me smile, it shows her strength, courage and hope even as a bald 4 year old little girl.  We also met several of the families who couldn’t get out of the hospital long enough to get a family picture taken and some of these families lost their children before they did.  This breaks my heart and spurred us on to make sure that never happened again.


We currently do photo shoots at Dance Marathon and Heart Connection Camp, which is a camp for cancer kids and their siblings.  We have done shoots for 3 years at cancer camp and saw a huge need to come back and shoot at sibling camp as well.  As a cancer family we saw the effect that childhood cancer had on the siblings, they often get left out while their siblings get lots of attention, gifts and goodies.  The siblings are left to deal with feelings of jealousy and guilt as they know their sibling is struggling but they want some attention too.  So, last year we brought photographers into Sibling camp as well and what a joy that was to see these siblings light up in front of the camera and enjoy their time in the ‘spotlight’.

We have an amazing team of photographers that donate they time and abilities to provide such a wonderful gift to these families.  Most of our photographers have come to every shoot for several years.  We also have several volunteers who work behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly.

If you would like to donate to help us continue providing these portraits of hope, courage and strength to these families you can make a donation online at our new website (which is in the construction phase) at or you can mail a check to Capturing Hopes, 2410 Eastlawn Dr, Marion, IA 52302.”

Amy & Hunter P.


“Hunter was 6 when he was diagnosed with burkitts lymphoma on his last day of kindergarten on june 4 08. On july 11th 08 his scans revealed that he was in remission. he finished treatment in sept 08 and we look forward to celebrating 3 years of remission this summer.

We look foward to dance marathon and camp heart connection every year. One of our favorites parts of this is the Capturing Hopes photos that are taken at these events. These photos are a treasured part of our family. And of course our fave photograper is you. You bring out the model in Hunt and capture him perfectly.”


Hunter has names for all his volunteer friends — mine is “Sweet Cheeks — ha!”

Kids are resilliant. I know it’s been said 1,000 times over.  And I believed it to be true since I have seen my children bounce back from an injury here and there. But these kids re-define the word, and take it to a level far beyond what most of us can begin to imagine.

The Dance Marathon experience makes for a carefree and fun day for the families and kids. Most look forward to this all year. We try to make the picture-taking process easy as can be — no pressure,  no posing,  and no worries. It is such a blast to see the kids running around, being goofy, and mugging for the camera with  huge silly smiles on their faces.

To be honest, I don’t know who looks forward to this event more, the kids or me!


joy - May 20, 2011 - 12:03 pm

what a wonderful perq of a wonderful job

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