Kellsie Marchbanks probably felt like a supermodel.
For about 30 minutes on Tuesday, the 20-year-old left her bed at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and sat in a chair while a make-up artist brushed away all her blemishes. Then, she positioned herself in front of a fancy backdrop while an award-winning photographer snapped picture after beautiful picture.
This wasn’t a magazine photo shoot. But for Kellsie, it felt like her moment to shine.
Thanks to a grant by the St. Louis Blues 14 Fund, award-winning photographers and make-up artists will visit St. Louis Children’s Hospital each month, turning the oncology floor into a full-featured photo studio, complete with lights and backdrops. The program, called Flashes of Hope, brings the smiles and unique personalities of hospitalized children to life as they battle cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Professional photos are created and given as keepsakes to the child and their families.
“It’s really exciting,” Kellsie said. “I get to come and take a break from my bed and all my medicines. It’s neat to get your make-up done and see new faces around the hospital.”
Kellsie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a common type of bone cancer in children. According to kidshealth.org, osteosarcoma typically arises “from random and unpredictable errors in the DNA of growing bone cells during times of intense bone growth.”
With proper treatment, most kids diagnosed with osteosarcoma are able to recover.
The Flashes of Hope project is being led by Diana Davidson, wife of Blues President John Davidson, and several of the Blues players’ wives and girlfriends.
”Flashes of Hope creates all these uplifting photographs of kids that have life threatening illnesses,” Diana said. “Just to come in with award-winning photographers and stylists, put make-up on them and put them in front of the camera, it puts such big smiles on their face. It breaks up their long day when they’re going through their clinical day.
“It’s so rewarding. It’s amazing, how beautiful the pictures turn out.”
Blues players Eric Brewer, David Backes
and Jay McClement visited the hospital on Tuesday, taking several hours to be photographed with children participating in the program this month.
"We met a family that's been here for two years straight," McClement said. "You realize things that people are going through everyday for those periods of times, it's nice to take their mind off of it for a little bit."
“You’re getting a glimmer of hope out of them, but we (as players) are getting so much more out of it to see the courage and determination these kids have to fight these diseases," Backes said.
“We feel like it’s a good mutual combination. They get a little smile on their face and a timeout from thinking about their illnesses all the time. To bring that to somebody is a huge reward for us.”
Flashes of Hope aims to help children feel better about their changing appearance by celebrating it. Founded in 2001 by the parents of a pediatric cancer patient in Cleveland, Ohio, Flashes of Hope now has chapters in over 50 hospitals across the country. This year, approximately 6,000 children will be photographed, which is nearly 50 percent of the children diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States.
It’s a special program, and for the Blues players, it’s more than just an ordinary hospital visit.
”Normally, it’s meet them in their room while they’re still in their bed and say ‘hi’ and drop off an autograph,” Backes said. “That’s something special, too, but to see them out of their beds and see the make-up artists and the professional photographer…some of the kids are just hilarious.
”(They) bring tons of joy to everyone around them.”