Blue Jackets Foundation and Flashes of Hope program capture moments that matter

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes it’s worth even more.

The Blue Jackets Foundation recently held their annual "Flashes of Hope" photo shoot for this year’s group of pediatric cancer heroes that included shots with some of the heroes’ favorite Blue Jacket players.

Jackets forward Nick Foligno who is enjoying his first year as a father knows how important a photo can be. He says his family has over 1,000 photos of his young daughter, and he’s happy to be part of a few more shots for the heroes and their families.

"You want to capture every moment," Foligno said. "Especially with what these kids are going through, you want them to feel like they are one in a million and these kids deserve that."

Columbus is just one of 85 cities nationwide that have a Flashes of Hope program. The idea started ten years ago in Cleveland when a mother who had a son battling cancer heard of another patient who passed away. The family had no current photos to remember their child. Within two days, brainstorming led to the creation of the Flashes program that now focuses on photographing every child who has a life threatening illness.

Amanda Johnson, chapter director for the Columbus chapter of Flashes of Hope says the program would not be possible without the support of the Blue Jackets Foundation.

"I had heard about Flashes and really wanted to volunteer but found out we didn’t have a chapter here," Johnson said. "I reached out to the organization and they said they had a sponsor in the Blue Jackets Foundation. They’ve been with us since the beginning."

Flashes involves top notch photographers who volunteer their time. After a shoot like the one with the Blue Jackets, each family receives a portfolio that includes a selection of printed photos and the families also have access to digital images.

"We’ve had families make Christmas cards out of them," Johnson said. "Some of the images are things you’d never think to take a picture of. But one mom said those are priceless images because they look back now and they don’t remember that their child looked like that."

It’s capturing the unexpected that Flashes focuses on. Johnson says a lot of times the photos show a child’s progress that a parent can’t always see — hair growing back, bodies impacted by and then recovering from treatment.

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"I think parents really appreciate capturing the moment," Johnson said. "A lot of times you wouldn’t think about taking a picture of your kid, it may not be something you want to remember, but we have families who say five years later they look back and they love it — they remember that’s what they looked like."

Flashes also acknowledges that a child’s disease is a fight for the whole family. In addition to Jackets players, the heroes posed with siblings and parents throughout each shoot.

"I’m a parent and I’m always behind a camera," Johnson said. "I always try to encourage the mom and dad to jump in there because that captures them at the moment too and a lot of times they haven’t had a family photo in years, we try to include the siblings, grandparents – we are there for what they want."

And while the Jackets and the Flashes of Hope team partner year after year, the time spent together is by no means routine. Each session is reminder of why the photos are so important. Luke Benner was at this year’s photo shoot with his son, Erin.

"This isn’t our first time taking these photos," Luke said. "Flashes has been awesome just documenting the journey we’ve been through."

Luke watched as his son, who has been battling a recurrence, took photos with forward Matt Calvert. When the photo shoot was done, Erin asked for autographed pucks for his two brothers. Luke says Erin has been focused on always doing something for his siblings so they don’t feel like he gets all the attention just because he’s been sick.

Luke’s voice caught with emotion as he described the day.

"This has been a crazy whirlwind adventure," Luke said. "It’s been a great day. We’ve had hope since day one but these photos help — they’re just something special."

For more information on the programs the Blue Jackets Foundation supports visit www.bluejacketsfoundation.org.