"Superman is there to unite us all". This quote by Brandon Routh could not be any more perfect for this particular day.
We had been trying to figure out how to make 3 year old Santiago's Superman session absolutely perfect. So when the opportunity arose to meet with the real Superman himself, we absolutely said "YES!".
Brandon Routh volunteered some of his time during his very busy schedule at an event here in Portland to meet with Santiago and the rest of the Mendez family. There was one hangup, however. Christina (Mom) was scheduled to work during the chunk of time that Brandon was going to be available. Christina and Ernesto (Dad) work opposite schedules and use their vacation time to prepare for Santiago's future surgeries.
If you haven't figured it out by now, we can work some pretty amazing magic here at Capes and Crowns.
Kylie got a hold of someone who knew someone, who knew someone. Who happened to be Mom's boss at a local police department. We asked if they would allow Christina to take a 4 hour time slot off of work, and we would pay her lost wages for the time off. They very graciously agreed.
With the help of the family's close friends (Becca, Emmy, and Matt), we put everything into action.
On the morning of June 24, Christina and Ernesto were told that they were being asked to attend a surprise party for Becca at an area hotel.
Little did they know what was about to unfold.
Tiffany and I were waiting in the hotel lobby already when the family arrived and started to engage a bit with them. Even though we were in our Capes and Crowns shirts, no one seemed to catch on. We started to slowly lay out the families t-shirts that we had made for the day. I noticed Christina glancing over and trying to figure out what was going on.
Soon after we started getting puzzled looks from the family, Santiago ran over to the group of t-shirts. Drawn in by the Superman logo that he so loves, he was so excited to see them! We then revealed who we were and that we were there to surprise them, but we weren't going to reveal our big secret just yet.
When the time came, we had the family line up and around the corner came Superman! I think that "shock" is a pretty great way to describe their reaction. Brandon was all smiles and DJ (the oldest boy) was the first to run and greet him. It was smiles and hugs (and some tears) all around.
Brandon spent time interacting with the kids, high-fiving them, and just chatting. It was such an amazing experience to watch him genuinely having a good time with this family as he got to know them more and signed some autographed photos.
You could see the obvious joy and excitement in not only the family's faces, but in Brandon's as well. As a Dad himself, he knows the values of these moments and helped to make Santiago feel just as important and special as he truly is.
We then sent the family on their way to enjoy a family day at the superhero event that was going on.
That time with Brandon Routh will stay with all of us forever. Thank you so much, Brandon. We cannot say thank you enough for making this such a special day for Santiago and the rest of the Mendez family.
Photos by Halsey
Translated from the beautiful Hawaiian language, this means "Life is a gift from God". I have never seen any one who understands that more than Arden and her family.
When Kylie and I flew to California a few weeks ago to visit Arden at Stanford University, it was uncertain she was going to make it home like she wished. Well, by the grace of God, Arden is now at home on hospice care in Banks, Oregon. Right where she belongs.
We knew we had to make this session incredibly special, so we immediately started thinking of absolutely every aspect of this session that Moana-obsessed Arden would enjoy. We wanted to make this an experience for Arden, not just a photo session.
Driving through the middle of the valley outside of Portland that seems to be endless fields and farmland, you would never expect to find a quaint, quiet little house community in the tiny town of Banks.
When I pulled off of the highway and at the entrance to an array of houses (which looked to be more of a town in itself), I took notice of a pink ribbon and flower on a large tree. As I kept driving, I noticed nearly every tree was adorned with one of the colorful streamers. As I was searching for the address, I noticed a home with the pink ribbons all over the yard as well as some remnants of "Welcome Home" balloons.
When I arrived, two other members of the Capes and Crowns team were already there hard at work. I greeted Pearcia and Jimmy as well as the other kids, and went over to Arden's corner of the living room where her bed is set up. Tiffany (our Capes and Crowns VP) was giving Arden a foot rub with some pretty amazing smelling Posh lotion. We both commented on Arden's amazing taste.
Arden looked more relaxed than when I had seen her just a few weeks before at Stanford in her hospital bed. Being home with her family was probably a big part of that; she got her biggest wish.
Remember that part where I said that we wanted to make this an experience, not just a photo session?
Not long after my arrival, that experience started unfolding.
Keawe Holt, a very talented Ukulele musician who is a part of the local Ke Kukui Foundation, volunteered a few hours of his time to be here. He entered playing some traditional Hawaiian songs for Arden to create that perfect Hawaiian atmosphere.
Within minutes of Keawe's arrival, I got a text alerting me that Moana's boat had officially landed from Montinui. She entered in singing "How Far I'll Go" along with Keawe playing. These two together made all of us feel like we had just fallen into the actual movie and were listening to Moana sing on her way out to sea.
As the evening went on, Moana continued to amaze us. She also performed and taught us the hula dance from the movie which was SO fun! She then read a story to Arden and the rest of the family, teaching us all about her life.
She also handed out beautiful, fresh leis to Arden and each of the 7 other family members which came all of the way from Moana's island! The boys had traditional leis made from Ti leaves, and the girls had gorgeous, purple orchids.
Once we were all danced out and had heard Moana tell her story, Arden requested to watch Moana. Yes, Moana WITH Moana, I think we broke some sort of barrier with that one.
She delightfully agreed, so the rest of our time with Arden was spent with Moana at Arden's side, watching the movie that inspired this entire session.
Our time spent with Arden is something that none of us will ever forget. This brave, strong little girl has inspired all of us in so many ways. I cannot begin to thank Pearcia and Jimmy enough for letting us into their home to make this magical time happen. I know that it gave Arden memories that she will cherish for the rest of her life.
This session would not have been possible without the help of some amazing people. Elizabeth Shriner of Seattle's Princesses and Moana traveled 3.5 hours to make this magic happen for this deserving little girl. Keawe Holt of Kekui Foundation was available with less than 24 hours notice to share his gift of playing ukulele with us. Peggy Cole of Island Girl Floral Design in Portland managed to put together eight stunningly gorgeous leis as well as lots of extra shell and nut leis in less than 24 hours.
Thank you all for helping make this day magic for Arden. It was a pleasure to meet and work with each and every one of you. We cannot say how much it means to our organization that each of you donated your time and money to make this happen.
Photos by Halsey
Moana provided by Seattle's Princesses/The Painted Palaces
Ukulele entertainment donated by Keawe Holt of Ke Kukui Foundation
Leis donated by Peggy Cole of Island Girl Floral Design
On Monday night, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed after my girls went to bed. Through the slew of cute kid pictures, I stopped in my tracks when I saw a post from a new friend.
When we arrived in Palo Alto, we went straight to the rental car mall. Remember, this was a completely "fly by the seat of your pants" type trip, so we had one plan and that was it; get to Arden.
After chatting with Pearcia, we decided to go grab lunch first and then head over to the hospital.
When Kylie and I first arrived, we were immediately greeted by Pearcia with a warm smile and big hugs. The amount of strength in this woman, it's just unreal. In that moment, it was pretty surreal that we had just made this all happen, but it was immediately a huge relief that we were here, and that these photos were going to happen.
Over the course of the next few hours, we got to know Arden a little bit. She was asleep for most of the time that we were there, but we talked with Pearcia (after making sure she got hooked up with some caffeine, of course) and really got to know who Arden was. I could sense the refreshment in her voice to be able to talk and just have normal conversations that didn't involve talks about PICC lines.
Because Arden's photo shoot was supposed to be Moana themed, we decided to bring a bit of Moana to her. Kylie picked up this adorable Moana outfit from the local Disney store, and although Arden didn't have the energy to put it on, I love that she has it nearby just in case she wants to hone her inner princess.
After Arden had been sleeping for a bit, Kylie and I decided to ask the charge nurse if it would be okay for us to go around asking other families if they wanted photos. She absolutely loved the idea so we were able to go around and take photos for other families in similar situations as well.
Today was a day that I don't think any of us will ever forget. It was a lot of traveling in one day, and it was worth every single moment.
Upon entering the banquet room at the Hampton Inn Vancouver, I was immediately greeted with open arms and a huge hug by a wonderful woman. A woman who looked so familiar to me, but I could not for the life of me place her. I would later find out that fate has a funny way of making things happen perfectly.
Guest Post by Kylie Cole
January in Oregon has been quite the adventure! This never-ending snow created the perfect backdrop for our Snow Princess photo shoot. It was a very special day for many reasons, especially because of the two little girls who I got to spend the day with. Meet Calley and Charley.
Calley (6) and Charley (4) had a fantastic time getting dolled up. It was their first time gettng "a real makeover". While listening to Disney songs, I did their hair into sweet little updos and applied their makeup. They were so excited to see themselves! "Can I see my face yet???" Getting to choose anything from our new jewelry box was a huge hit. The couldn't stop smiling upon seeing themselves for their first time.
Even though Charley's face in this photo might reflect otherwise, they were loving every minute of it. They changed into their gorgeous winter princess gowns and we headed to Noble Woods Park in Hillsboro, Oregon. The scenery was breathtaking. The girls were such troopers, tromping through the snow in the cold!
Everything about this shoot was perfect, the snow, the light and most of all, the girls.
Over the last couple years Calley has suffered from random and extremely painful blackouts for no apparent reason. It was quite the struggle to find out why this was happening to her. After several tests, cat scan and MRI, the only thing doctors could identify were dozens of growths with some gumball sized and some resembling shrapnel in the back of her skull. It was almost as if she had the remnants of a horrific car accident, without ever being in one. After enduring these blackouts 2-6 times per week, thankfully they have stopped. Doctor's are still stumped but if at some point they do return, they will continue with more testing and hopefully get to the bottom of this!
According to their mom, Ashley, they couldn't stop talking about their big day as an "Ice Princess" with "real makeup". These genuine smiles make all the time and effort that go into sessions like these, so worth it. Even if just for one day, we are here to help these kids feel like the princess or superhero that they really are.
If you know of someone who could use an INSPIRE session, apply or nominate them today! www.capesandcrowns.org/apply
Are you a makeup artist, hair stylist, or photographer? We need you! Apply for one of our volunteer photographer positions, here.
Why do we do what we do? What exactly does an inspire session mean for the children and families involved? It can be difficult to understand the answers to these questions without being a direct participant in the daily lives of these families. The struggles, the triumphs, the milestones, the setbacks. Each family has a unique and personal story that shapes how they live day to day. Each family has settled into their version of normal, as abnormal as it may be. Each family quietly longs for just a moment of escape from that normal. However, unlike my desire to escape the volcano of launrdy currently oozing off the edges of my washing machine or the incessant fighting over a blue frog (because heaven forbid one of them has to play with the GREEN frog!), these families long for an escape from something completely different. Emergency room visits. Surgeries. Medical mysteries. Difficult doctors. Bills. Anxiety. Worry over a child's very breath.
A recent Capes and Crowns session at the Oregon Garden brought a temporary reprieve from these normalities. The session focused on Brynleigh, age 3 and Jayden age 5. Brynleigh just recently had surgery on her arm. She will be undergoing lung surgery for an unknown but life threatening issue that causes her to get sick easily and frequently and have difficulty breathing. Jayden has complex congenital heart disease. She was born with several heart defects which required open heart surgery at 3 days old. A stent was placed 2 years ago, and another stent and open heart surgery are scheduled within the next 8 months. She also has high functioning autism and sensory processing disorder. The girls' older brother Zach participated in the session as well. He is a charming, patient, and loving young man who seems to take everything in stride.
The chosen theme was Frozen. We were incredibly blessed to have the services of Jennifer Walker, the spa manager at Moonstone Spa as our makeup and hair specialist. Her patience and kindness towards the family was overflowing, and her styling was beautiful.
Our amazing liason at the Oregon Garden was Mary Ridderbusch-Shearer. She met us after the styling and took us to a beautiful, mysterious part of the garden which was perfect for our first set of photos. It wasn't snowing during the session, so Elsa had to work her magic for us.
Mary worked her own magic and gifted us a few minutes on the ice rink all by ourselves before the staff came on to resurface the ice for the next skate. It was just enough time for the kids to run, play, and have a fabulous time as the stars of the night.
Underneath their beautiful dresses are fabulous boots gifted to the girls by Kristine Thayer, the owner of Sweetpeas Resale store in Sellwood. Warm and stylish toes!
The plan to end the session was a visit to Santa, who graciously agreed to give the kids pre-purchased presents. Mary snuck the presents to Santa so we were ready for the finale. As all children do, though, and especially after such an exciting event, the girls ran out of steam. There was no way we were going to make it to Santa's debut at 5PM. Enter Mary the magician. She convinced the kind hearted Santa to get suited up early and make a special appearance in the hallway of the hotel, just for the kids. They were thrilled. Gifts were given, and a very hilarious moment ensued where Brynleigh (who was not at all ok with Santa) flushed him out when he tried to sneak behind her for a picture.
Why do we do what we do? What exactly does an inspire session mean for the children and families involved? I'll let Mom Chandra tell you:
"You guys are truly amazing. I can't thank you enough for what you gals are doing. It really does give us that chance to enjoy and forget even if for just a few hours. It is a lifetime of memories in the making and going to mean the world. My kids have it rough. I don't wish this life or the life of having special or medical needs on anyone. Although if it wasn't for this life I have I wouldn't have had such an amazing chance to raise such amazing kids and call them mine and receive all of the hugs, kisses, and I love you's. I would not be who I am today, I would not have the patience, or drive, or ability to take on every new obstacle like it's a normal occurence like I am able to today. Life is a blessing and I couldn't be more thankful for every moment and is why I am so thankful for everything you gals are doing".
That is why we do what we do. Be on the lookout in the coming days for a simple way in which you can help us make these moments possible for more children and their families. Please help us Share the Love.
"Where there are no words, know the silences are carrying the thoughts and prayers of all who love you." This quote by Dawn Davis is suited perfectly for the event that we were so honored to have been a part of over the weekend.
The Hobizal family is a very large part of the community in our small town of St Helens. David Hobizal (Dad) actually ran into a burning building to save one of their neighbors just months ago and Shandi (Mom) is always trying to lend a helping hand to those in need. Beyond their amazing exterior, though, was an unimaginable situation. Their sweet boy Zander suffered from a condition called Menke's Disease. Menkes affects about 1 in 250,000 newborns and there is no cure for it. He fought for his entire short life. Spending what seemed like forever in the hospital for tests, being treated for different illnesses and viruses, and breathing treatments.
Sadly, Zander lost his battle with Menkes at just 10.5 months old. The heartbreak that swept over our little river town is indescribable, but watching everyone step up to help The Hobizal family is nothing short of amazing.
On Sunday, November 13, Angie Hughey and I packed our gear up and headed to celebrate Zander's life along with what seemed like most of St Helens. Friends, family, and community members who had never ever met Zander showed up to pay their respects. It was so obvious how loved this little boy was, even by those who had never met him.
From the moment he was born, it was obvious to everyone what a fighter Zander was. Shandi always called him her little Superman because no matter how many times he had to be poked with needles, or undergo more tests, he was always so brave and strong through it all. For the service, Shandi and David felt it was important to honor Zander with "Hulk" green shirts and inviting guests to wear their favorite super hero costume. Because although he is no longer with us, his super hero strength lives on.
The service itself was simply beautiful. Beautiful white roses, handmade cupcakes from loving family members, photo magnets with photos of Zander so guests could have a bit of his sweet smile in their home. It truly was a celebration of an amazingly courageous little boy who was taken much too soon.
Fly high, sweet Zander. The impact that you made on the world in your short life is immeasurable. You are loved and missed by so many.
We've all heard the phrase "everything happens for a reason" probably a thousand times in our lives.
It can be a frustrating, often unwanted admonition, especially if we don't immediately see the reason for what we are going through.
Some, though, have the gift of faith. The ability to trust that even if they don't see the reason, there is certainly a larger plan at work that supersedes comprehension of the moment.
The faithful in this instance is an amazing family. Superheroes unto themselves. Elisha, Aaron, Giada, and Zachariah. They were walking home from school one day when the unthinkable happened. A car collided with them while they were in a crosswalk. Five year old Giada suffered the worst injuries, remaining in a coma for three days. Zachariah's injuries were serious but not critical. Elisha, Giada and Zachariah all recovered from their injuries which leads us to Batgirl and Capes and Crowns.
When hardships weigh heavily on a family, it can be so hard to take a moment to breathe, let alone laugh and let loose. Enter Capes and Crowns. This amazing foundation creates a momentary dream come true for children and their families. In this case, the dream was to be a superhero family for a day.
The Set up: Portland Dream Drives graciously partnered with Capes and Crowns to provide the perfect location and Batmobile for the shoot. The Portland Superheroes Coalition provided two absolutely evil villains for the ultimate showdown of good vs evil.
The family began the day in hair and makeup:
The location: A car lover's dream garage filled to the brim with the most beautiful, fast, and enviable cars you can imagine. By the way, Portland Dream Drives is a foundation that gives rides in these amazing cars to children who are sick and medically fragile. Check them out here for more information on a seriously amazing organization.
The epic battle commenced.
In the end, the brave superheroes prevailed.
On hand at this seriously amazing photo session were two news stations: KPTV and Portland CW. Check out the news story here.