Artist Helps Sick Children’s Imaginations Come To Life

Other photographer’s images may be worth the proverbial 1,000 words, but Shawn Van Daele’s really only going for one.

The word is hope, and it’s the motivating force behind his Drawing Hope Project. The project is an imaginative undertaken whereby Van Daele meets up with children suffering from a variety of illnesses and ailments. He makes them the subject of a photo shoot. They, in turn, give him details of a story, dream or wish.

Depending on details the children supply, Van Daele will then use a little photo editing trickery to turn them into everything from princesses to pirates, so that they’re no longer bound by oxygen tanks and doctor visits and daily prescriptions. In Van Daele’s images, at least, the children are masters of their own magical realm.

At the moment, he’s preparing to release a storybook this summer featuring the first 27 children photographed. His mother is helping to write it, and proceeds will be split with the causes related to the children captured in its pages. Already, for example, Van Daele has used the project to spur greater awareness of the importance of registering to be an organ donor.

Meanwhile, Van Daele also is working on finding a way to pursue the Drawing Hope Project full time. Until he gets there, he’ll keep shooting and going out one-on-one to meet children that, through his pictures, he wants to help take to infinity and beyond.

“I have a very hard time saying no to anyone,” Van Daele tells Hooplaha. “Children with life-threatening illnesses I try to work with as soon as possible. As many are located all over the world, I try and work with various families at one time when I am in their area.

“The finished photo is always inspired entirely by the drawing the child sent in. If there’s a rainbow-colored octopus in the drawing, there will be one in the photo. It’s all about letting them see their imaginations come to life.”

Van Daele began the Drawing Hope Project in April 2012. In one of the resulting images, a young girl he photographed stands defiant, hands on her hips. Her superhero uniform includes a logo on her chest and a red skirt, and there’s a cape floating behind her. Farther back is a giant sandcastle, the highest point of which includes the word: “Hope.”

In other Drawing Hope Project photos, a young boy wearing glasses Van Daele photographed beams as he leaps into the air waving a wand, his magical abilities resulting in a floating swirl of people, objects and a house dancing fancifully around him in the image.

The children, whose days otherwise include complications like chemotherapy and transplants, are encouraged by the photographer to focus instead on their dreams and imagination. It’s a fitting project for Van Daele, whose own early years were marked by a fascination with things like fairy tales and Choose Your Own Adventures books.

Through his photography project, he’s now sprinkling some of the same pixie dust from his own youth among children today who deserve to be reminded about the power of their own imagination.

“I really had come to a point in my life where I wanted and needed to give something back, to show gratitude for everything I've been given in my life,” he said.

“I wanted to do something with my creative abilities that would make people smile, inspire them, and was fulfilling my own need for a creative outlet at the same time.  Being able to do something you love with the tools you've been given, that in turn can change someone's life for the better, is the best possible use of your skills and gifts.  I wanted to bring awareness to rare diseases and conditions, and everything fell into place.  I wanted to inspire the magic of childhood and let kids and their families who could use a little happiness in their life see that anything is possible.”

You can check out more images from the Drawing Hope Project on its Facebook page.



Boston’s North End Institution That Treats You Like Family – Polcari’s Coffee

This Little Italy neighborhood in the North End of Boston is dotted with stores from an earlier, simpler time that have a genuine, authentic feel. Bobby Eustace, the owner of one such store, relishes the enjoyment he sees in the eyes of his customers as they take in what he calls the "orderly disarray" of his shop where you can find rare spices, deli meats, candy, pasta, and a wide selection of coffees, their specialty. When you cross the threshold and take a deep breath of the unique mix of aromas, you know you have arrived at Polcari's Coffee.

Keep reading... Show less

Prepping Pups For New Baby’s Arrival – The Creation Of Us (S2:E7)

In a few weeks Christen and Heather will become parents and they are excitedly preparing themselves and their home for the new baby's arrival. In this episode of The Creation Of Us, there are three other important members of their household that also need to get ready for some major changes – their dogs Missy, Oliver, and Lilly.

Keep reading... Show less
Series - A Dog's Journey Home

The 300 Mile Rescue: From Shelter to Salvation – A Dog’s Journey Home (E12)

It's over 300 miles from the Tracy's Dogs facility outside San Antonio to the Brownsville and Palm Valley Animal shelters near the border with Mexico. Every month, Tracy drives her transport van on this long journey, never knowing exactly what she will be faced with when she arrives. Some dogs she has reviewed online and others she has been told of, but it is not until she steps through the shelter doors and walks the aisles of cages that she can truly make the decisions that will mean a healthier and happier life for the lucky few that will be rescued.

Keep reading... Show less

TallOrder Socks Honors 9/11 Dad by Giving Back, with Style

** On our National Day of Service and Remembrance, recalls one of the many stories of healing and recovery that gives us hope for the future. **

Just two weeks into starting his job at Car Futures on the 92nd floor in the World Trade tower, Andrew Friedman was killed in the 9/11 attacks. He left behind his wife, Lisa, who was just 39 years old and already a cancer survivor, and his 11 year old twin boys, Dan and Mike.

Keep reading... Show less

Shatterproof: Helping Families Turn the Tide on Opioid Addiction

For years opioids have been generously prescribed and gladly welcomed for their temporary relief for chronic or post-operative pain. But for too many, these drugs become addictive, creating a craving that no force of will can deny. Michael Taylor was one of those trapped and consumed by these drugs, but his family and friends are determined not to accept his loss quietly. In tandem with Shatterproof, a national organization dedicated to ending the devastation that the disease of addiction causes families, the Taylors host an annual event in Michael's honor to celebrate recovery and support legislative change to help end the stigma of addiction.

Keep reading... Show less

Miles O'Brien and Francesco Clark Talk Defeating The Limits - Fearless Like Me (E3)

Opening a door, unpacking a knapsack, or preparing a hot drink before you start your day are tasks you complete without thinking during a typical day at school or work. Now imagine waking up tomorrow and suddenly facing those same tasks for the first time without one of your arms or the use of your legs. How would you manage? In this episode of Fearless Like Me, Francesco speaks with Miles O'Brien, a veteran journalist who was suddenly forced to face this type of new reality after a seemingly minor mishap on a photo shoot.

Keep reading... Show less

Changing Lives Through Hope, Love, And A Pretty Dress

On vacation in Africa ten years ago, Rachel O'Neill discovered what life was like for little girls in rural villages. In that culture, little girls come last, getting the fewest resources and the least opportunities to improve themselves. Rachel decided to take on the challenge of empowering these girls and making them feel important and special. She started by sewing simple dresses out of pillowcases and Little Dresses for Africa was born.

Keep reading... Show less

Paralyzed Beauty CEO Still Fearless at 40 - Fearless Like Me (E2)

Very few of us are born fearless, but some ascend to that state from a seminal moment in their lives. In this episode of "Fearless Like Me", Francesco Clark recalls when he faced that moment, lying paralyzed in a hospital bed after a pool accident. "I was told by my surgeon that I would never talk, breath on my own, or move my arms ever again," he recalled. "I learned to become fearless at that moment when I felt my life had been robbed of who I was."

Keep reading... Show less
Watch and Subscribe
It's a Positivity Movement
OnlyGood TV on YouTube


Get your Only Good TV Newsletter