As a photographer, I am blessed to be a part of some amazing moments in peoples lives. I've been able to photograph cousins as close as sisters, families that are the very definition of love, couples in the beginning of their journey as a husband and wife and newborns within their first days of life.
Recently, I was able to be a part of something that has been an inspiration to me since 2012.
The Smashing Walnuts Foundation wasn't always a foundation. It started with a girl. She was vibrant and smart and beautiful. But her most important attribute was her bravery. You see, in 2012, 10 year old Gabriella Miller was diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of a walnut. Her parents and her younger brother would smash walnuts with frying pans to symbolize Gabriella's treatments demolishing the tumor.
During her treatments, Gabriella became a WARRIOR. At 10 years old, she fought for funding and research and awareness about childhood cancer. She helped write a children's book about cancer, she received an honorary degree from Shenandoah University, she spoke in front of thousands of people, she helped to raise over $275,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, she was brave enough to say (on camera, directed to politicians) that "Talk is bullshit" and she never gave up hope.
Unfortunately, on October 26, 2013, Gabriella lost her battle to brain cancer, not even a full year after her diagnosis.
Gabriella and her family were and are an inspiration. Their dedication to raising awareness to the crisis children are facing when it comes to childhood cancer is nothing short of amazing. Her parents, Mark and Ellyn, founded Smashing Walnuts in Gabriella's honor and they continue her fight to raise funding and awareness, in the hopes that there will be a cure for cancer in the near future.
It would be a disservice to Gabriella and Smashing Walnuts to not write about some disturbing facts about childhood cancer. Did you know...
...only 4% of money for cancer research is specifically directed toward childhood cancer?
...childhood cancers and adult cancers are different and require different research?
...43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day?
...72% of children diagnosed with a brain tumor are under the age of 15?
...7 children die every. single. day due to cancer?
How can we stand for this? How can we allow our children to suffer not only a cancer diagnosis, but also suffer extended hospital stays, emotional trauma, horrific treatments, even more horrific side-effects and open discussions about their deaths?
Smashing Walnuts Foundation isn't allowing this to happen without a fight. They do pretty amazing things to help raise money for childhood cancer research, and this past weekend, I got to be a part of one of their events. I volunteered my services as a photographer for a few reasons: One, I will help Smashing Walnuts however I can because I believe in raising awareness and honoring Gabriella's fight. Two, I want them to have photographs that show how much they are loved and supported. And three, because as a photographer, I know that sometimes, photographs are the only things that we have left of those we love. So, on Saturday, I spent time at their Walkin' With Gabriella event at Heritage High School. Here are a few photos from that day.
I encourage you to help support this amazing foundation and raise both funds and awareness!
The amazing Miller Family.
Multiple government officials, on both sides of the aisle, came to smash walnuts and support the event. Those in attendance were Del. Tag Greason (R-32), Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman, state Sen. Dick Black (R-13), state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33), Del. Randy Minchew (R-10), Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors chair candidate Phyllis Randall and U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10).
We'll keep fighting, Gabriella. Gigi's Army won't stop.