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