July 28th, 2017 was the worst day of my life. I received a phone call that my oldest daughter, Mikayla, had died by suicide. Needless to say, I was devastated! I would never see or hold my baby again. This an unbearable pain that no parent should have to go through.
I kept saying that I was supposed to be paying for a wedding, not a funeral. It hurts knowing that I will never hold her or hear her call me "Daddy" again.
My wife and I scrambled to gather every photo of her we could find and head to Kansas City for the funeral.
The photos were going to be used for a display at her visitation and funeral. We were also going to use photos to create a video slideshow to share our beautiful daughter with everyone.
It was then that I began to feel that we did not have enough photos of her, photos that showed who Mikayla really was, and I felt horrible about that. I imagine every parent feels as though they don't have enough photos of their children.
A couple of weeks after the funeral, I realized I had to do something to honor Mikayla's life and keep her memory alive. I wanted to make sure I could spare as many families this pain that they would surely feel of not having enough memories of their child.
I decided to start an organization to volunteer my services as a Photographer to any family with a loved one who may be sick or dying. I would create portraits of the person, or the entire family, as a lasting memory. I would then give the photos to the family. I would never charge for this service.
I also would offer my services to as many non-profits as I could, photographing the people they serve, at the families request, as well as the non-profits fundraising events. All of this I would attempt to do at no cost, or a greatly reduced fee.
I decided to call the organization, the "Life Through the Lens".
"Through the Lens", refers to a feature of cameras whereby the intensity of light reflected from the scene or subject is measured through the lens.
It was the perfect name! I would have the awesome honor of being able to capture the intensity of the light and the "essence" of the person I was photographing and be able to capture that memory for their families.
I came to the realization, that this was going to be no easy task.
I knew was going to enounter poor lighting conditions in hospitals and poorly lit homes; places where I was not going to be able to use a flash. I would need to have specific lenses that would let in enough ambient light to create quality photographs; lenses that I did not have. Eventually, I would need to upgrade my camera itself as well.
My current camera gear would not cut it!
It was not like I was going to get a second chance at these photographs.
This equipment was going to cost close to $10,000.
I knew I was not going to have all the money to purchase these items by myself.
I also knew the longer I had to wait to raise the money alone through my job, the more memories would be lost.
I was going to need to ask for help.
Therefore, I decided to reach out to my friends and the community as a whole to ask for their help in funding this organization.
I would use the funds raised to purchase the equipment needed. Once purchased, the only other costs incurred would be some minor operating expenses.
There would also be some minor travel expenses incurred as I would attempt to go anywhere I could to serve as many people as possible. I would drive as far as I need, or take the cheapest flight I could find, and stay in the cheapest, rattiest motel I could in order to save funds. All for the sole purpose of creating quality, meaningful portraits of people who are terminally ill, in order to present these memories to their families.
The organization would be comprised of an "Army of Photographers", all volunteering their talents to serve others.
This organization is very close to my heart, and your support will help me to keep the memory of Mikayla alive in my heart and the hearts of my family and other people's lives she touched throughout her life which ended way too soon.
I truly believe Life Through the Lens will affect thousands of families along it's journey for years to come.
Please consider supporting this organization, any amount will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.