For families of children with cancer, the Emilio Nares Foundation can be an invaluable resource. The nonprofit helps underserved families avoid missing medical treatments by providing free rides to and from appointments, and, to date, has transported nearly 5,000 Southern California kids. The nonprofit also provides a bevy of other support services, including professional family photos. Photographer Elizabeth Ireland donates her time and talent taking photos to brighten families’ spirits or, in the worst-case scenario, giving them something to remember their child.
What made you want to become a volunteer for the Emilio Nares Foundation?
I had a colleague of mine ask me to donate a silent auction item and invited me to go to their yearly Harvest for Hope. I went and was instantly hooked. I heard the stories of all they were doing, and I was like, “What else can I do to get involved?”
What is the time commitment?
It’s kind of whenever they need me. Since Covid, we haven’t been able to take as many pictures because I can’t go into the hospital, so I usually do at least one yearly photo event or shoot so we can do all their marketing and advertising photos. Then I do the end-of-life ones for the kids that just aren’t going to make it—anytime there’s a situation like that, if I can make it work, I always try and go. And then I photograph their Harvest for Hope every year as well. Sometimes there are more sessions a year and sometimes there are less. It just depends on what’s happening throughout the year.
What’s your favorite part about volunteering?
It’s always fun seeing the kids who have gotten better. Then being able to help the families who have never had family photos and see their smiles and how happy they are receiving these cherished memories. I just love being able to provide that for all these different families.
What’s one of the biggest challenges of volunteering for ENF?
Holding it together for some of the harder ones. We’ve had a few rough cases that I’ve done end-of-life photos for, and I’m holding myself together. Then, when we walk away, I’m just bawling my eyes out. The hardest part is to see what these families have gone through. It’s heartbreaking to see, but their resilience is amazing.
Any advice for someone considering volunteering for ENF?
If you need a charity or nonprofit, go to them. They’re just so involved, and they care about the people, not the bottom line. Luz (Quiroga, interim executive director) will tell you the entire story about every single family that you meet, every person in the family’s name. Every time I’m involved, I feel like it gives me purpose and I just love being a part of such an amazing organization.