ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tascha Cascante remembers the feeling she got while sitting in the doctor’s office.
“I was like shaking and bawling my eyes out. It was so scary to hear. It was very scary,” she said. She was pregnant and the baby was not developing properly.
“Fear and nerves, both,” Cascante said.
The two right chambers in the baby’s heart were fine. The two chambers on the left side were undeveloped. Cascante was given three options: Abortion, birth with treatment, and birth without treatment.
“I decided to have her and fix her up,” she said. “Just to hear that your child has something wrong with her heart, that’s major.”
More than two years later, Elena is here. She loves Disney, swimming pools, and riding in her stroller. Her heart is still not as strong as it could be.
“She’s going great,” said Cascante, who visits the cardiologist every three months.
When Sheri Kendrick heard about little Elena, she knew the family needed photos of their new baby. For over two decades, Kendrick has taken professional photos. In 2014, she decided to detour her career into the non-profit world and started Little Light Of Mine.
“Our mission is to provide complimentary photography services to families with a child fighting life-threatening illness,” Kendrick said. “It’s very rewarding.”
Little Light of Mine provides complementary professional photography services to families in the Tampa Bay area who have a child fighting a life-threatening illness. Kendrick does it to ensure that families will have keepsakes of their kids if the illnesses become more serious, with the potential to end life.
“It’s kind of sacred space. It’s very sacred space. And I feel very honored to be a part of that. I feel honored that people trust me to be a part of that,” Kendrick said.
The outreach has meant a lot to Kendrick and her clients. On her website, Kendrick shares testimonials from families following photos sessions. Not all have happy endings.
“We cherish the pictures taken. They are priceless to us, and Anna was just wonderful!” wrote a woman named Laurie, showed smiling with her daughter, Lynsey, who succumbed to Cystic Fibrosis.
Families like Laurie’s receive private photo sessions with their children. The memories are preserved in frames. They are irreplaceable.
“Our new home may still have unpacked boxes everywhere, but this being hung in our living room makes it complete. Happy Valentines Day my sweet angel. A holiday you didn’t stick around for but you will always change the way your dad and I celebrate it,” wrote one mother named Angela. “A special thank you to Sheri Kendrick and Little Light of Mine photography for capturing this moment on a beautiful canvas that brings me to tears and fills my heart with joy every time I look at it. That little smile and those big bright eyes looking up at me tell me all I need to know- that you were so in love with your mommy and were proud of the way I fought to protect you. Those moments in my arms will always be cherished. I’m so thankful for this beautiful moment captured by Sheri.”
Little Light Of Mine photographers, all volunteers, are trained to handle sensitive situations and are comfortable engaging with and photographing very ill children and their families. If you would like photos of your child from Little Light Of Mine, you can apply on the LLOM website.
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