Volunteer

John Thomas and Special Friends Fund

If you follow my blog semi-regularly, the adorable face I'm about to show shouldn't be a stranger to you.  I met John Thomas and his amazing family when his mom April bid on a photo session I donated to the Junior League silent auction a couple of years back.  I have photographed their family twice, and she is already asking me about my availability for next year and driving up to do the photo session in Vermont, which of course flatters me to no end.  I have also become the photographer for the foundation her and her husband run in honor of their son John Thomas.  Their annual fundraising ball is coming up in November, and April asked me to post this information and picture of John on my blog.  I was only too happy to pass along the info about this wonderful family and what they are doing for children with special needs.  Please read below for more information.  Also, just to give credit where it's due, or not due lol, I didn't take this photo of John, but how cute is he??  Thanks for sending this information along April!  

 

 

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LOCAL CHARITY PLANS FOR ITS THIRD ANNUAL FUNDRAISING GALA

A Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball Benefiting Special Needs Children

Dedham, MA (October 20, 2011) The John Thomas and Special Friends Fund will be hosting its 3rd Annual Benefit Gala for special needs children on November 20th, 2011 at Lombardo’s in Randolph, Massachusetts.  The Mardi Gras Masquerade strives to surpass the two previous years’ fundraising efforts that have already amassed nearly $50,000 to fund genetic research projects at Childrens Hospital Boston, educational projects at Perkins School for the Blind, and otherwise assist local special needs children, as well as the medical and educational institutions and social organizations that care for and support special needs children, with funding for special medical equipment, communication and other adaptive technology devices, therapies, and social activities.

The Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball will be an afternoon from 2pm-7pm of fun and mystery, music and mayhem for our young and old guests alike.  Excitement abounds with a stilt walker, juggling jester, and mask making activities to keep the younger guests busy, while the adults can enjoy the auction items, raffles, and the other elations of mardi gras.  Moreover, there is fun for the whole family with music by DJ Jerry Gemme of Starlight Entertainment, dancing, and family photo opportunities by professional photographer, Alanna Scully of Alanna Scully Photography.  A full buffet meal will be provided.  Tickets can be purchased in advance for $65/adult and $35/child.  The Fund strives to keep the enjoyment level up, while hopefully raising money for a great cause.  For tickets and donation information visit the Fund’s website at www.johnthomasfund.org or email at johnthomasfund@aol.com.

The John Thomas and Special Friends Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established in 2009 by April and Shawn Wilmar of Dedham, Massachusetts, in honor of their special needs son, John Thomas, and is dedicated to assisting, encouraging, and promoting the health, happiness, education, development, and overall well being of special needs children, as well as the medical and educational institutions and social organizations that care for and support special needs children.  April and Shawn have appreciated the care that John Thomas has received and the progress that he has made thus far and are dedicated to giving back to the special needs community to assist other special needs children in their overall development.

If you would like further information about The John Thomas and Special Friends Fund, or to schedule an interview with April or Shawn Wilmar, please call April Wilmar at 617-650-1179 or email at johnthomasfund@aol.com.  Please also visit the Fund’s website at: www.johnthomasfund.org.  Donations can be made directly on the website.

 

 

The Bottari Family

This morning I headed to hang out with the Bottari family!  This was my second session for OpLove and I had just as much fun this time as the first!  Mom had contacted me a long time ago about this session, when she was still pregnant with their cutie Adilyn, and with her husband on leave, I was happy to head over there to take some family photos.  Everyone was so welcoming and the kids were adorable.  They definitely have their hands full with Christian, Brogan and Adilyn, but they were such a happy family that it made for a great morning.  Here are a few from the session.  Dad leaves again on February 15th... thank you for everything you do, and I'll see you guys for the homecoming pictures!

So this is the first face I saw when I arrived this morning- PRECIOUS!

Adilyn looking up at her big brother...

Dad and Adilyn...

Happy parents...

The John Thomas and Special Friends Fund

A couple weeks ago I headed to Lombardo's in Randolph to photograph a benefit for The John Thomas and Special Friends Fund.  The Wilmar family host this event each year, and when I photographed them back in the summer and they told me about it, I asked them right away if they needed a photographer.  I haven't known them long, but honestly, I fell in love with the Wilmar's the first time I photographed them, and getting to know them a little bit more over the past few months has just confirmed my first impression- that they are an incredibly strong, loving family that give so much to the people around them.  The fund that they started in their son's name goes to helping provide special children like John Thomas with long term care, therapy, medical equipment, etc., and also helps support places such as the Children's Hospital Boston and the Perkins School for the Blind that give care for special needs children.  There were so many special children at the event, and it was incredible to see how these amazing families come together to care for them and support these facilities and the additional equipment and therapies it takes to care for these kids.  Shawn used a quote by Al Batt in his welcome speech that stuck with me, which was "It is easy to sit up and take notice.  What is difficult is getting up and taking action."  The Wilmar's have taken action since day 1, and the legacy they are building in their son's name is awe-inspiring. Here are the Wilmar's- Shawn, John Thomas, Ryan and April!

April and Shawn did an incredible job putting together a "winter wonderland"... with of course, a special visit from Santa.  There was also a crew from Kohl's handing out gifts and setting up arts and crafts for the kids!

This little girl had quite the list...

And this little boy was tooooooo cute for words... he had sooooo many questions for Santa about the North Pole...

The Wilmar's set up a Christmas-y backdrop for family photos as well...

This year's event was actually dedicated to two little boys who passed away long before their time.  Their names were Amogh Bharatan and John Makrakis, and these are some pictures of these two beautiful angels...

Inside the ballroom, I couldn't even believe how many raffle and auction prizes there were.  Every wall was LINED with amazing things... and I won't even mention how high I brought the bidding up on this meet-and-greet with Rondo... I tried Jenn! :)

Shawn and April welcoming everyone...

April's dad helped call out the raffles and auctions...

April's mom reallllly wanted that purse...

And Shawn reallllly wanted that flat screen TV! :)

One last shot of the Wilmar family before I headed out... April and Shawn, thank you so much for having me, and for inspiring me beyond words.  Your strength is something to aspire to and you've touched so many lives with your courage... thank you for touching mine!

Rays of Hope walk

Last Sunday I participated in the Rays of Hope walk in Springfield as a volunteer photographer.  Rays of Hope is an incredible organization whose fundraising efforts help support breast cancer research right in our community.  This year, 19,000 walkers joined together to raise $950,000!  It was my first time walking and what a day.  It was absolutely incredible to see so many people out for such a good cause.  About a month ago, right before the Save the Goddess night, Barb Turcotte from Baystate asked me to write a short essay about why I got involved in Rays of Hope.  This is what I wrote, and this is the picture I gave her of my beautiful stepmom 2 years ago as she kicked chemo's butt...

"Cancer used to be a word that affected other people.  It was always a scary word, but one that affected other people’s families, other people’s worlds.  I never knew anyone that had it or experienced the havoc it can wreak on the lives it touches.  I remember our health teacher in high school referring to it as a tornado, something that could touch your life and leave a devastating trail of destruction.  But so far, it had skipped my house, and so the word cancer wasn’t in my vocabulary.

When I was eleven, my dad married my stepmom, Cheryl, and her mother Judy became my step-grandmother.  Grandma Judy was strong, kind, and hilarious.  She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979, and was always very vocal about women being screened.  She was the Director of Nursing at the Health Center of Springfield College, so women’s health and safety was always a top priority.  In 1998, when I was 15, she had a recurrence.  Two years later, she passed away.

In 2002, cancer struck even closer to home, when Cheryl herself was diagnosed.  Cancer was now a household word, and we quickly became familiar with other words: oncology, chemo, radiation.  Cheryl had her first mastectomy that July.  In 2006, as a preventive measure, she had a mastectomy on the other side, as during a biopsy they found there had been some change in the tissue.  After the second mastectomy, I think we all breathed a little easier, and thought we were free and clear.  Cancer was out of our dictionary again.  Then in October of 2008, my dad called me to say that Cheryl had a recurrence of cancer on her first side, and the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.  Cheryl started chemo immediately, and rang in 2009 with radiation.  She currently takes Tamoxifen, which she will have to take for 5 years.

I got involved with Rays of Hope because I believe in survival, medicine, and the power of solidarity.  When cancer hits your family, and you feel like you’re about to lose someone important to you, you can’t imagine that there’s anyone else in the world that can understand what you’re going through.  Then I started talking Michelle Graci and Barb Turcotte from Baystate, and started photographing events for Rays of Hope.  I realized that there are thousands of men and women affected by this disease, and Rays of Hope is a great way to bring these survivors and families and friends together, all while benefitting local breast cancer research and programs.  We may never be able to erase the word cancer from the dictionary, but thanks to Rays of Hope, we can now use better words when talking about it: strength, hope, endurance and survival."

People come up with some great team names and shirts for the walk!  Here are a few...

Future photographer? :)

Let the walk begin!

Along the walk there were different performers to help keep the walkers going... everyone was so talented!

Love this group...

More fun shirts...

I'll end with this group, who raised over $2,500 for the cause.  Awesome day everyone, thanks for having me Baystate!