Today I'm gonna hug my kids a little tighter, count my blessings, and send up prayers, light, and love to a family of heroes. A few months ago, my friend Shannon (who also happens to be a fabulous family photographer at Shannon J Dodge Photography) asked if I would partner with her to create a special video for the Lawrey Family here in Southwest Florida. The subject of the short film is a little hero named Gavin.
He's a quiet soul with a smile that lights up a room.
(all photos in this article presented courtesy of Shannon J Dodge Photography)
At just 6 years old, Gavin has the burden of coping with a life-threatening illness called mitochondrial disease.
Like a lot of you, I'd never heard of it. And yet, "every 30 minutes a child is born who will develop mitochondrial disease by the age of 10." (citation: umdf.org) Mitochondria are essential for creating the energy the body needs to support healthy growth and sustain life. Without proper-functioning mitochondria, the cells of many major organs are damaged-- creating pain, weakness, strokes, seizures, and a host of other ills. It's tragic to know that children with this disease often don't live beyond their teen years and many die during childhood.
When I look at Gavin's sweet face, I can't imagine the sadness of losing his light in the world.
Despite the frequent visits to the hospital, and the painful procedures, and the slew of pills, and the limitations his disease imposes, Gavin smiles. Gavin hugs. Gavin gives the sweetest kisses. Gavin brings joy and love and hope to those who have the good fortune to be near him.
I wanted to show Gavin's world with the light of hope. In the short film I created (through collaboration with Shannon J Dodge, Brandi Lawrey, Amy Pintus, Gavin's friends and family), I'm asking you, the audience, to consider who are the real heroes among us.
Grab some tissues and watch it here:
Gavin's 9 year old big sister Makenzie is one of the heroes for sure! She's doing her part to raise awareness.
Makenzie's great ambition is to help save her brother's life by raising $1 million for a cure.
To help the cause, she's authored a children's book, written from her point of view, describing the struggles her little brother faces. I was delighted to pick up my signed copy from this beaming young author at her book launch this evening. You can pick up your own copy at Amazon by clicking here.
Brandi and Jeff (Gavin's amazing parents) are heroes in my book any day. While filming the project, I watched as Brandi helped turn chores into games. At their lovingly-created school-at-home station, Brandi sang little songs of the months of the year. (She made me promise not to record her singing voice; which, for the record, was lovely!)
Brandi never fretted, never stressed. I'm convinced that her determined, upbeat spirit has certainly influenced Gavin.
Later, while going through the motions of his daily lung treatment, Gavin entertained his mom by turning the shaky sounds that his vest created into a trumpet serenade. Like mother, like son-- making the best of every situation!
Jeff meanwhile is the kinda dad we all love-- positive, fun, up for anything. He has the amazing ability to be both gentle and strong for Gavin and his family. I loved watching Jeff show Gavin how to pose like a superhero. He lifted Gavin up (literally and figuratively) time and again with piggy back rides and high-flying superhero stunts.
The final hero in this story is you!
If you see a spark of your own child in Gavin Lawrey...
If you, too, hope for a cure...
If you want to lift up and celebrate the heroes...
If you find yourself moved by the film and Gavin's story...
Can I ask you a favor? Consider how old you are right now. Will you donate that number in dollars to Gavin's Hope4Mito fund? Let's send up our prayers and our assistance that Gavin may live to enjoy as many years as each of us.
Raise awareness, learn more, and donate today to help find a cure at hope4mito.com/
Be the Hope!
Film Created and Edited by Megan DiPiero Productions Co-Directed by Megan DiPiero and Shannon Dodge with Images by Shannon J Dodge Photography Mito Action G Costume by Amy Pintus Music by Dexter Britain | Ardor; Provided by TheMusicBed.com
Starring the Heroes... Brandi Lawrey Jeff Lawrey Makenzie Lawrey Gavin Lawrey