Sharon Weigand of Round Lake Heights doesn't take the pictures. But her love of photography can be seen in every image taken of young cancer patients at Children's Memorial Hospital.
"After my husband Ray's father passed away from cancer, we wanted to find a way to help other families fighting the disease," Sharon said.
Ray's cousin, Barbara Weigand of Oak Park, who is a co-founder of Caring Arts Foundation, suggested we could make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families by taking studio-style portraits at the hospital.
"Once a quarter they take over the oncology parent lounge for a morning and turn it into a photo studio," Barbara said. "The kids have a wonderful time choosing costumes to wear and parents receive a full complement of photos, as if they'd gone for a formal portrait sitting, minus the cost."
Sometimes the children miss their school photos due to their illness.
"The photos are a reminder of how beautiful every child is, regardless of their illness, and is a wonderful gift for the families," said Barbara, vice president of programs for the foundation in Oak Brook.
Sharon and Barbara start the morning laying out more than 50 costumes, hats, stuffed animals and mirrors, while Ray and daughter Jennifer set up photography equipment to create a portrait studio in two small rooms on the oncology floor at the hospital.
"We don't know what age the children will be so we have a variety of sizes and styles," Sharon said. "We have cowboys, firefighters, many princesses, any kind of sports, really cool black jackets and ties for teenagers."
Most of the costumes are split down the back to make it easy for the children with IVs in tow.
The Weigands also take portraits of siblings, parents and family groups in costumes, too.
"We stand on our heads, shake stuffed animals, anything to get the kids to laugh or smile," Sharon said.
About 30 children are photographed each visit.
"We love to see the expressions on the kids faces, we love to see how excited the parents get," Sharon said.