Ellen Cook volunteers her time and talents to Flashes of Hope.
Ellen Cook volunteers her time and talents to Flashes of Hope.

Local photographer offers Flashes of Hope for kids with cancer

Photographers capture moments, preserve emotions and convey feelings through the images caught by the shutter of their lens.

For families dealing with childhood cancer, the moments captured by photographers like Whitefish Bay’s Ellen Cook through the organization Flashes of Hope at in-hospital photo shoots provide forever precious memories.

Flashes of Hope was founded in 2001 by the parents of a child with cancer. The completely volunteer organization now has chapters in 55 cities and photographs more than half of the children diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year. Families are given reprints, enlargements and a disk at no charge.

Cook reflects, "For too many families, these might be the last images of their children." In fact, 25 percent of the children photographed do not survive.

Flashes of Hope deals solely with childhood cancer and since 2009 have been fund raising for childhood cancer research through the Kick-It Program. Childhood cancer research is a highly neglected area, which according to Flashes of Hope’s website, "receives only 4 percent of U.S federal funding for research R&D in (the) pharmaceutical industry (while) adult cancer research 60 percent ... children's cancer research (is) close to 0 percent." Additionally, most childhood cancers have no known cause and do not discriminate based on economic status, ethnic group or geographic area making all families vulnerable.

Cook, an in-demand professional photographer in Milwaukee and beyond known for her distinct ability to artistically document family events like weddings, pregnancy and infant to senior portraits has spent the last five years as one of many area photographers that donates time and talent to Flashes of Hope.

She sees her service as a way to use her creative passion and express her gratitude for her two healthy children while giving families with children diagnosed with cancer the gift of beautiful portraits and memories. She has done shoots at Children‚Äôs Hospita…

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A few extra calories at a holiday meal won't make you Santa-shaped. Promise.
A few extra calories at a holiday meal won't make you Santa-shaped. Promise.

Give yourself the gift of smart eating

Christmas decorations and retail holiday gift sets have been on display since the end of September, so it’s not surprising that nutritional propaganda about holiday eating started being jousted at consumers in conjunction with the early onslaught of sleigh bells and gift wrapping.

Mixed messages in the media abound with images of indulgent holiday classics like iced fruit cake juxtaposed with the latest diet fads and fitness trends in anticipation of Jan. 1.

Last month, I opened up my complimentary subscription to "Cooking Light" and saw an article touting how to save 555 calories at Thanksgiving. I could not stifle the guffaw as I examined the visual of two plates side by side, comparing 20 calories saved by choosing cranberry sauce over gravy or the 27-calorie deficit from putting 4 ounces of light and dark meat turkey on your plate versus 4 ounces of white meat with skin.

While these sensible swaps are great ideas to integrate into healthier daily eating habits, it seems really trivial, borderline shallow and unnecessarily obsessive to be worrying about a few hundred calories on one or two really special days of the year when you are hopefully surrounded by friends and family that will love you whether you are at your "happy" weight or a few pounds over.

It’s a given that this time of year includes an inevitable packing on of the pounds, but I am certain this is not just happening from a single meal at Thanksgiving or one Christmas dinner. It’s from a collective burning of fewer calories since most people engage in less activity due to colder temps and shorter days and repeated increased calorie consumption from more social eating and drinking with the boost in holiday get-togethers.

No one‚Äôs diet or training program was ever totally sabotaged from one indulgence. And certainly not from a few bites or even an entire satisfying holiday meal made special by Grandma or Auntie June. Healthy eating and living is a true lifestyle choice; it‚Äôs not a temporary…

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