This story originally appeared at InspireMore.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a common question posed by children of all ages.
For children who are battling a life-threatening illness like cancer or sickle-cell disease, growing up feels like a privilege they’ve been fighting for all their lives. Each day they are battling for their lives, and sometimes having those dreams of “someday” provide sick children with the hope they need to fight another day.
Ashley Berrie of Atlanta, Georgia, has recently come face-to-face with a handful of brave young warriors who want nothing more than to grow older and lead lives that are fulfilling. As a photographer, Ashley teamed up with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to give five of these kids a glimpse into the future in an inspiring photo shoot.
“September is National Childhood Cancer and Sickle Cell Awareness Month, so we wanted to do something special to honor our patients,” said Allyson Wright of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “Treatment can be rough and spending long days in the hospital can be draining, so we wanted to give them something to look forward to and a special day to celebrate them. We asked five patients what they wanted to be when they grew up and then facilitated a photo shoot in various locations around Atlanta to allow them to experience the profession. Each child was given the opportunity to dress up as their chosen profession and experience a ‘day in the life.’”
For Ashley, getting to know the kids was an experience she’ll cherish. “They showed so much joy dressing up in this role of what they wanted to be,” Ashley said. “These children show so much hope for their futures and I think every child deserves a lifetime.”
Ariana, age 15, wants to be a chef.
Ariana has been battling sickle cell disease since she was born. She had a blood and marrow transplant to cure her sickle cell disease, but almost immediately after she was diagnosed with graft-versus-host disease and was hospitalized for more than 6 months. At one time she was even placed on life support, but she pulled through like the fighter she is!
As she recovers she has taken up cooking in the kitchen of the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House, often baking cupcakes for young patients who are staying there while they have their own treatments.
Alivia, age 7, wants to be a hair stylist.
Alivia was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia after her strep throat didn’t go away with antibiotics. She’s had four rounds of chemo and will have a blood and bone marrow transplant that will keep her stuck in the hospital for 100 days. She’s already looking forward to finishing her treatment and growing her hair back, which she hopes will come back curly!
Alivia’s mom Denise Linnekin is a hair stylist and Alivia wants to follow in her footsteps. On the day of the photo shoot Alivia got to live her dream and give her mom some pampering in the process. They did the shoot right in mom’s own hair salon.
“She had fun, she shampooed my hair and blow dried it,” Denise said, adding that Alivia shaved her own hair when she began losing it to chemo. “[T]o actually see her go through the fight she went through and have that photo shoot, it made us excited for the future in a different way than we were before.”
Andrew, age 7, wants to be a soccer star.
Andrew has always loved sports, but after finding it difficult to breathe while playing basketball his parents took him to the doctor and discovered he has acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He started chemotherapy right away and has now reached the maintenance phase, which lasts for two years. He can’t wait to get back into sports, especially soccer.
To capture this shot Ashley and the team worked with the Atlanta United team to set up an experience at their training ground. They provided Andrew his own jersey with his favorite number and name on the back as well as a soccer ball.
Dakota, age 9, wants to be a marine biologist.
Dakota has always been an animal lover. After she complained of blurry vision she was diagnosed with juvenile pilocytic astrocytoma (JPA), a childhood brain tumor. Her tumor happens to be on her optic nerve. She is still receiving chemo treatments and will be monitored every three months to make sure her brain tumor does not grow.
The hospital worked with the Georgia Aquarium to set up a behind-the-scenes experience for Dakota, who adores all things science. “It was like an experience of a lifetime for Dakota to be able to get up close and personal with the animals that she loves,” her mother Molly Southerland explained. “Just seeing her light up just when she was getting to feed the whale shark, it was priceless to me.”
Matthew, 16, wants to be a doctor and researcher.
At just 13 Matthew was diagnosed with Pediatric T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He’s had a blood and marrow transplant and made a recovery, only to relapse and have to repeat the entire process. Today he’s in remission and can’t wait to get back to school. He has never given up his dream of working in a forensics lab in the healthcare industry, hoping to design new treatments to heal kids like himself some day.
This photo shoot took place right in the research labs at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston — where Matthew’s own doctor conducts his research.
These are the faces of hope! These five fighters show us what true bravery and perseverance look like. We’re so glad they got to experience living their dreams with this photo shoot, and we’re sending them positive thoughts for a full recovery.
Please share this story to let these kids know we’re pulling for them!