2014 Wrap-Up!

Scroll down if you want to head straight for my favorite images from 2014.

2014 has been a busy year. In addition to forming a new company (Spirited Media) with my husband and launching our first website (Billy Penn), I launched two new photography projects that I’m really excited about.

  • Priceless Puppies, I’ve been photographing puppies destined to be assistance dogs for paws4people for over 5 years now and figured it was about time I figured out a way to share all of that puppy cuteness.

In 2014, I blogged less, but wrote more, as I began writing for Connection Newspapers. Links to my pieces are below the pictures.

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Photo by photography student, Will F.

I met an inspiring teacher, Al Faraone and his post-high school student, Will.  An aspiring photographer, Will had been taking pictures at school events and wanted to learn more. Al figured out how to rig my Canon 5D Mark iii to Will’s wheelchair, so that he could look through the viewfinder. With limited use of his hands, clicking the shutter was difficult. Using a remote trigger, he worked hard to capture the images he wanted. Interested in learning more? 


Presenting 14 from 2014: For-Profit Work                                                              (click on each picture to view larger)

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Presenting 14 from 2014: Non-Profit Work with paws4people.org               (click the links to learn more about the dogs and the difference they are making. Click on the pictures to see them larger.)

Adam, a veteran, recently told me that things have really changed since KENAN had come into his life. In fact, he invested in getting his teeth fixed.  If you never smile, your teeth don't matter, Adam told me. http://paws4people.org/give/adam-campbell/

Adam, a veteran, recently told me that things have really changed since KENAN had come into his life. In fact, he invested in getting his teeth fixed. If you never smile, your teeth don’t matter, Adam told me. http://paws4people.org/give/adam-campbell/

MEMPHIS is currently training to be an assistance dog at Lakin Penitentiary in West Virginia.

MEMPHIS

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GRIFFIN

Getting those litter shots takes a lot of puppy wranglers.

Getting those litter shots takes a lot of puppy wranglers.

I have also photographed Cory with his assistance dog, SAMPSON, but this is the image that really touches me, Cory with his two teenage daughters. Read more about Cory's journey post Marine Corps:   http://paws4people.org/give/cory-will/

I have also photographed Cory with his assistance dog, SAMPSON, but this is the image that really touches me.

THORNTON is currently training at Lakin Penitentiary in West Virginia.

THORNTON

AVERY has much more patience than my beagles.  But that tongue was at-the-ready for the command that AVERY knew would eventually come.  http://paws4people.org/give/robbie-combs/

Robbie on AVERY, ” [I]  used to always say get busy living or get busy dying. Because of AVERY I have gotten busy living.”

SAYLOR and WALKER, best buddies.

SAYLOR and WALKER

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Destined to be assistance dogs.

I couldn't do the top 14 and not include SIDNEY. She is the smiliest dog I have ever seen.  She is a demo dog for paws4people

SIDNEY, a demo and breeding dog, is the smiliest dog I’ve ever seen. Next year’s goal is to get David  to smile as big!

GUS clearly brings Lexi and here family so much joy. Read about their journey: http://paws4people.org/give/lexi-haas/

According to Lexi’s mom, Susan, “Thanks to GUS, for the first time ever, neighborhood kids stop to talk to Lexi.”

JACKSON has made such a difference in Walter's life that he and his wife, Susan were able to realize a life-long dream, to travel to Alaska. Read more about his journey from Vietnam to meeting JACKSON: http://paws4people.org/give/walter-parker/

Because of JACKSON, Walter and his wife, Susan, were able to realize a life-long dream, to travel to Alaska. Read more about Walter’s journey from Vietnam to meeting JACKSON: http://paws4people.org/give/walter-parker/



Links to Connection Newspaper articles

This was a multi-part package, taking up several pages of the paper. This link goes to an intro and then all of the links to each of the associated pieces.  Blondes turning Heads in Prison

We wanted to come up with a different way to talk about adoption. No stats. No pleas for help. Rather, the story of how a wonderful family was expanded through adoption. Hover over each image to see captions and read about the story of the Havlovick’s.  How Three Became One

Photo gallery of assistance dogs and their handlers. Click on each picture for description.

Envisioning a Launch Pad for Young Adults

Puppies Destined for Important Work

Columns

I’m not a parent, I just act like one.

November is Adoption Month

Nurturing Happy Memories

Small Acts of Kindness

Assistance Dogs: Making Connections

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Blondes Turning Heads in Prison

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paws4people.org, one of the non-profits I volunteer with, is truly changing the lives of prison inmates, veterans, children and anyone who crosses paths with their programs.

It starts with adorable puppies, who begin their training at the Lionheart School working with children with autism. Later, the puppies are transferred to prison where 0014
male and female inmate trainers with convictions ranging from drugs to murder, train assistance dogs for vulnerable populations of adults and children. I have seen it myself, redemption, even among those who seem the most lost, is possible.

The work paws4people.org is doing strikes a chord for me as many children who age out of foster care end up in the prison system.  In fact, a reported 70 percent of those incarcerated in California have spent time in foster care, 75 percent in Connecticut and 80jbrady_april2014_0062percent in Illinois. And a study of the Midwest found that 60 percent of men who spent time in foster care had been convicted of a crime.

paws4people.org is developing a new program, paws4potential, to catch ex-foster and other at-risk kids before they end up in prison.

In the meantime, enjoy this window into the difference a pack of gorgeous four-legged
blondes are making both in-and out-side of West Virginia’s Lakin Correctional, through my package in the Connection Newspapers:0084

Trained in Prison. Healing in Northern Virginia … Beyond Orange is the New Black.

Sharing the Burden of PTSD… Serving 7 – Life

You are not your Mistakes… Life without Parole

If you would prefer the PDF version:  Trained in Prison, Healing in Virginia.

 

 

Posted in Fostercare, Inspired, Kids At Risk, paws4people | 2 Comments

2013 Highlights

2013 was a year of exciting business growth as I expanded my children/family work and entered the contemporary business/social media portrait market, capitalizing on the new reality; that your image has become a key part of your brand.

With the onslaught of new clients, I switched from a natural light studio to the consistency of artificial light.  I was terrified, but with the support of several photographer friends, I’ve successfully made the transition.

In my non-profit work, several of the foster kids I work with were adopted this year and I hope more will be in early 2014.   My work with paws4people.org continues to grow as the organization grows and I’m very excited about what 2014 is likely to bring.

Here are some of my favorite images from 2013:

For Profit

Robin's response to seeing this image of Midnight,  "I know I'm off-camera, but I can tell from his eyes that he's looking right at me -- that's the exact way he looks at me, with all of that love -- and that gets me every time. That's something that I'll treasure most is being able to always see the way he would look at me."

Robin contacted me to photograph Midnight, because Midnight has been sick, Cancer.  In response to seeing this image she wrote, “I know I’m off-camera, but I can tell from his eyes that he’s looking right at me — that’s the exact way he looks at me, with all of that love — and that gets me every time. That’s something that I’ll treasure most is being able to always see the way he would look at me.”

I put in a studio this year and have loved having the choice to shoot indoors, when the weather is bad.

Sophia and David

I've been photographing this awesome family since Matthew was born. This year, the kids came to the shoot with their own concepts.  The pyramid was William's idea.

I’ve been photographing this awesome family since Matthew was born. This year, the kids came to the shoot with their own concepts. The pyramid was William’s idea.

Doug

This was scheduled as a dog shoot, but Danny was a good sport, getting into the act.

This was scheduled as a dog shoot, but it didn’t take much encouragement to get Danny into the act.

Jacob likes to be very close to the camera.

It seems like yesterday that was doing Jacob’s newborn shoot.

Lucy is a therapy dog who goes to work with Jackie, a local therapist. http://www.wellness.com/dir/6145066/counselor/va/vienna/jackie-stout-lcsw

Lucy is a therapy dog who goes to work with Jackie, a local therapist. http://www.jackielstout.com/

I've been photographing Will and his sister Laura since they were born. They are both big swimmers, so it was fun to mix it up with a pool shoot this year.

I’ve been photographing Will and his sister Laura since they were born. They are both big swimmers, so it was fun to mix it up with a pool shoot this year.

Sometimes it's just about capturing a moment.

Mathew and Megan

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Grace

I photographed a lot of dogs this year. Sir Bentley was absolutely one of my favorites!

Sir Bentley

Non-Profit

I've been photographing Erin, Solomon and their family since 2009.

paws4people: I’ve been photographing Erin, Solomon and their family since 2009. To learn more about Erin and her sister click here: http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/tips/8890_Conjoined_Twins_The_Story_of_Erin_Jade/index.html

Rachael and her assistance dog, Dawson. The flag in the background was the flag given to her family when he died. And the picture she is holding, is her grandfather.

paws4people: Rachael wanted to find a way to pay tribute to her grandfather, lost earlier this year. The flag was the flag they received at his funeral and the picture, of course, her young grandfather.

Alex graduated from high school in last June and we did his pictures at his school, so we could include his favorite teacher.

paws4people: Alex graduated from high school in  June and we did his pictures at his school, so we could include his favorite teacher.

Alex and Kingsley

paws4people: Alex and Kingsley

Josh and his assistance dog, Mason.

paws4people: Josh and his assistance dog, Mason.

Here's Rachael again, this time Dawson is demonstrating how he can bring her a pizza. Not a skill my beagles could master!

paws4people: I was stunned when Rachael told me that her assistance dog, Dawson, could take a pizza in a box and deliver it to her, still intact. Sure enough, here he is!

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paws4people: I love photographing the litters of puppies who will be trained as assistance dogs. In addition to breeding dogs for temperament, paws4people.org also trains rescue dogs, including dogs from Afghanistan.

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paws4people: Adam, a veteran, and I met at one of the prisons where paws4people.org dogs are trained.  Just months later, with his new assistance dog, Kenan, Adam’s entire demeanor has changed.

I'm not able to share most of my images of foster kids. But this is one of my favorites. The hand on the left is attached to a warm-hearted young man who has aged out and unlike so many kids who age out, he has a job and a place to live.  The hand on the right belongs to one of my kids who was adopted. She started college this year.

Foster Kids: I’m not able to share most of my images of foster kids. But this is one of my favorites. The hand on the left is attached to a warm-hearted young man who has aged out and unlike so many kids who age out, he is working and has a roof over his head. The hand on the right belongs to one of my wonderful girls who was adopted about 2 years ago.  She started college this year.  I’m so proud of them both.

Jaheim, a child who has spent 10 years of his 11 in foster care, came by my studio to learn about photography. http://www.nbcwashington.com/video/#!/news/local/Wednesdays-Child–Jaheim/229003691  If you are interested in learning more about Jaheim, call: 88-to-adopt-me

Family

Jim finally had the opportunity to go with me to photograph a litter of paws4people puppies.

Jim finally had the opportunity to go with me to photograph a litter of paws4people puppies.

Dontae LOVED dressing up in a tux and going to the prom.

Dontae LOVED his prom tux.  I was surprised he didn’t want to sleep in it!

Fred and Hank

Fred and Hank

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Dontae

Fred and Hank

Fred and Hank

Wishing everyone all the best in the new year.

Joan

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Change of Pace: Found Some Great Subjects in New Zealand

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paws4people.org: A Little History, Pictures from the First Annual Family Reunion, Graduation 2012 and More!

Below is an except of the post that ran recently on the paws4people.org blog, to read the entire post, click here.

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Photographing the 2009 Fall Graduation at Hazelton Penitentiary was my first official shoot with paws4people.org. Witnessing the caring and committed trainers as they somberly said good-bye to their 4-legged charges, now ready to make a difference for appreciative veterans, young children and their families, was one of the top three moving experiences in my life.

Parents, whose children were receiving assistance dogs, couldn’t wait to show their appreciation to trainers.

It was exciting to share in the joy of the recipients (paws4people “clients”), who had waited a long time for the big moment when their assistance dogs would come home with them, for good.

Since then, it’s been quite an adventure. I have been back to Hazelton several times and I will be making my second trip to Lakin Correctional Facility this Monday. In both places, I have been there when the new puppies arrive to meet their trainers.

To read more.. click here….

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“Miss Beverly is awesome!”

"My mother was a woman of faith, and our faith played a large role in our lives. My mother's goal for me was that I would go to college." Beverly Howard

When Beverly Howard was in high school, she aspired to be just like her French teacher, “a beautiful, poised, sophisticated black woman.”

Today, Beverly is a dynamic, enthusiastic spitfire and her foster-kid-charges will tell you that she is absolutely perfect just the way she is.

Beverly’s mom worked as a housekeeper, so as an elementary school student, little Beverly would get herself home from school and lock the door tightly behind her, her protection against their dangerous DC neighborhood.

Before she was old enough to work, Beverly’s summers were spent with her grandmother in South Carolina. She loved those summers far away from DC and filled with kids, some related, some not… so many kids needing a safe place and finding it among Beverly’s family.

"Miss Beverly is fun, energetic and spontaneous." 20-year-old boy in foster care

Beverly says that she was always the smallest in her class and so was easily left out. She would insinuate herself into the group by always having ideas of fun things to do.

In junior high she earned her way into the Junior Honor Society, juggling academics with acting and sports.

Beverly started working with kids as a teenager, working at one of DC’s summer camp programs. When it was time for college, she had several scholarship offers and chose the one that would keep her on the path to becoming a doctor.

It was during her pre-med classes that she realized she hated being around germs. She transferred to the University of Maryland, earning her undergraduate degree in psychology and then her Ph.D.

While her actual age is a carefully guarded secret, Beverly has lived long enough to boast a

long career of making a difference. She was the Executive Director of National Urban Internet, Inc., where she wrote grants to secure funds to support the organizations efforts to bring technology, entrepreneurship and golf lessons to youth living in public housing in DC. And when she couldn’t find a golf teacher to work with the kids, Beverly jumped in and taught them herself.

She identified and wrote grant proposals to provide self-sufficiency programs for at-risk youth living in public housing.  She was the Director of Community Relationships for the Alexandria, VA Housing Authority where she managed education and support programs for public housing residents for families and youth.  In addition, she spent many years working tirelessly in several substance abuse/addiction and psychiatric programs for youth-aged children.

By the time I met Dr. Beverly Howard on a Wednesday’s Child/NBC-4, shoot seven years

"I truly believe that every child should have at least one adult whose face lights up when he or she enters the room – someone who is always happy to see them. All too often, our kids in foster care don't have that." Beverly Howard

ago, she was working for Fairfax County, VA with older kids in foster care. She was on the shoot to help make sure that two of her foster-charges put their best feet forward, in hopes that someone would see these terrific boys on NBC-4/DC and want to adopt them.

I was there taking pictures, so that the brothers would have pictures to remember this

special day when they got to spend time with Barbara Harrison/NBC-4 at a carnival.

Before I knew it, Beverly was asking me if I would be willing to come photograph one of the events she ran for foster kids in Fairfax County, VA.  She told me about the program she ran for kids in foster care who were older and most of whom were available for adoption, but were at an age when they are less likely to be adopted.

These were children who didn’t have many positive role models and didn’t have people in their lives who thought they were special and important.  The group came together two – three times per month and some of the mentors, mentored kids one-on-one during the month as well.

I met a dozen or so kids there that day, all dressed in matching bright blue Fairfax Families4kids t-shirts. I met a 14-year-old boy whose big brown eyes told me about a lifetime of sadness, a 13-year-old girl who shyly showed off her voice as she sang a popular song for me and two brothers who nervously shook my hand as they awaited the arrival of their potential adoptive parents.

I saw the impact Beverly had as she interacted with each child. Beverly Howard sees every child as having potential. She leads by example. Children don’t need to first be likeable, before they are liked.

"She teaches us how to take the next step in life. A lot of us are at that age when we will be on our own soon. We need guidance to take that next step." 17-year-old boy in foster care

Through Fairfax Families4kids, Beverly has created a family, a family where one might otherwise not exist.

In foster care, kids often go to sleep with the uncertainty that when they wake up, they may be told to pack their meager belongings into a garbage bag, to move to a new placement.

They are often in group homes and residential facilities with staffs who are doing their jobs…some better than others. Often foster parents are also just doing a job. That is not to say that there aren’t caring foster parents and warm staff working in group facilities, there are absolutely are. But in my experience, too many foster kids feel very much alone in dealing with their pasts, their presents and the insecurity that comes with feeling that they have no control over their futures.

"Miss Beverly is awesome!" 15-year-old girl in foster care

Through Beverly’s/Fairfax Families4kids program, the kids truly know what it means to walk into a room and have faces light up with excitement to hear about what they have been doing. They connect with mentors and potential adoptive families and experience new things.

They learn to model appropriate behaviors which are reinforced through positive feedback.  They have a safe haven where they are listened to without impatience and where they know that they will not be judged unfairly or harshly.

Beverly says that being a parent is what most influenced the work she does today.  As a single mom of two boys for 10 years, she experienced the bumps, bruises and emergency room visits that tend to go along with having boys. When she got re-married, her family doubled with her new husband’s two kids from a previous marriage.  But it was when they adopted two preteen daughters, she said, she had to unlearn everything she knew from raising boys, as she tried to figure out how to raise girls full-time and how to successful integrate these wonderful girls into their family.

Today, Beverly is proud of her sprawling family of six children and twelve grandchildren — so far. And she is thankful for all of the experiences that led her down the path to blending a large group of strangers including teenagers and adults, into a unique kind of family for at-risk kids, who would otherwise be without.

Posted in Inspired, Kids At Risk | 9 Comments

He will be missed

My cousin, Joanne (age 86), didn’t get to see her friend, Peter, as often as she would like. So I was happy to play chauffeur for a Valentine’s Day lunch.

I had had lunch with Joanne and Peter before, so I knew to expect lively discussion on a range of topics… from children (his and hers) to grandchildren (his and hers)… to Joanne’s recent trip to Burma… to politics…to the elementary school boy Joanne tutors in reading… to my shoot at a prison, all while enjoying great French food.

As the meal drew to a close, Joanne thanked Peter for all of the Valentine’s cards he had sent. Without missing a beat, he smiled widely at her and responded, “Oh good. You got them.”  To which she replied, “Not a one.” And they both laughed.

It was one of those intimate moments, reflective of two people who know each other well and truly enjoy each others’ quirks.  It was the perfect close to a Valentine’s Day celebration.

I saw Peter several times after that, but his health declined quickly and, sadly, he passed away a few weeks ago.

I was so lucky to have known Peter and to have been able to spend time with him together with Joanne over the past few years.

He will be missed.

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