A weekend underwater to benefit Treehouse and give King County foster kids a childhood

Life, they say, is what happens when you are making other plans. It suddenly seems like a lifetime ago that I was working to finalize details so I could announce a new project that I’m really excited to be doing.

I’m writing this from a room in the cardiac intensive care unit. It’s a space I’ve come to know way too well that I look forward to phasing out of my life very soon.   Nearly a decade after being told by doctors that there was nothing they could do and that he probably only had a few months left my dad recently underwent a heart transplant. The last year has been especially challenging and given me a lot of time to reflect on life, work, relationships, priorities, and all of the little details that get us out of bed each morning.

In a single season I managed to experience the joy and euphoria of falling in love, the worry that comes when a parent is hospitalized after a decade of illness, the calmness of accepting the possibilities this presents, the pain of multiple kidney stones, and the horror of being witness to the violent death of someone I barely knew but will now never forget. I’ve learned that you can age more in a single second than you had in the previous 29 years. I’ve learned you can do that more than once. I’ve learned that life simply doesn’t wait for anyone.

It may border on cliché but I really believe that in the end it’s the connections with the people around you and the moments you spent with them that really matter. Even the quirky parts of your family should be cherished and I never forget that there are so many who don’t even have that to come home to.

While this announcement comes a little later than planned I feel like everything I’ve experienced with my dad finally getting his new heart just reiterates how much I believe in this cause.

On March 27th and 28th I will be hosting a weekend of Underwater Portrait Sprint Sessions in Renton and donating all of the session fees to Treehouse.

Underwater Sprint Sessions are shorter than regular portrait commissions but allow enough time to create 6-10 images of one person in a single outfit. They are scheduled back to back over the course of a preselected day or weekend and additional time is allotted for those who select the family option.

It’s hard to comprehend that on any given day over half a million kids in this country are in some form of foster care and thousands of those are right here in Washington State.   The statistics that paint outsiders a picture of life in foster care are both staggering and heartbreaking.

For starters you don’t end up in foster care for having the perfect healthy and happy home life.  Once in foster care there is a decent chance you’ll have to change schools and if you stay a while you’re likely to have to change homes once or twice a year.

As an adult it is hard to imagine how much stress would be caused by moving that often and yet I think about how for these kids this isn’t just about changing houses – it also involves changing families. New parents, siblings, rules, and friends make the prospect of just having a new house seem mild in comparison.

On average these kids lose 4-6 months of academic progress with each move. It’s no wonder they are more likely to need special education services and explains why the high school drop out rate of foster kids is more than twice the rate in the general population. By the time they age out of the system the percentage who’ve suffered from post traumatic stress disorder is twice what is found amongst those who’ve gone to war. Within 18 months nearly half become homeless.

Enter Treehouse – a Seattle based nonprofit organization that has worked tirelessly for over two decades to give children in foster care both a childhood and a future. They have six amazing programs which fill the gaps left by other agencies but I was immediately drawn to their Little Wishes program. This program pays for all of those little things that foster kids dream of just to fit in with their peers.

Even the most loving foster family has to contend with the reality that the state does not pay enough to cover the true costs of caring for a child in a way that gives them a shot at normalcy. It’s not just diapers and food and a roof over their head. It’s school pictures, swim lessons, a new bike, cool shoes, dance classes, yearbooks, or even something as basic regular haircuts. All of which can be funded with our support of the Little Wishes program.

And just because this post would not be complete without a photograph here is one I grabbed with my phone of a replica of The Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz brought in for my dad to celebrate getting his new heart (in the Emerald City no less…)

replica figurine of The Tin Man given to my dad to celebrate his heart transplant

 

You can also get an idea of what a Sprint Session is like in this 90 second video that I originally blogged last summer:

 

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