TOUCHING: Lensman makes ailing kids' dreams come true

As part of his Drawing Hope Project, photographer Van Daele asks kids battling health conditions to draw up their wildest dreams and then uses his art to make it a reality

Ontario: In his professional career, Van Daele (37) has introduced a toddler to a giraffe, sent an adventurous child off to sea and turned more than one little girl into a butterfly. That isn’t even half of his resume.

Van Daele’s depiction of Marco, a heart transplant recipient who battled cancer. Marco passed away recently
Van Daele’s depiction of Marco, a heart transplant recipient who battled cancer. Marco passed away recently

For almost two years, the photographer from Eden Mills, has traveled across Canada and the USA to bring to life the imaginations of kids who battle health conditions.

The moving photographs are often accompanied by fantastical stories about the adventures and exploits of the kids depicted
The moving photographs are often accompanied by fantastical stories about the adventures and exploits of the kids depicted

If a child’s dream is to swim with a whale, Van Daele will make it happen. If they’d rather fly off in a hot air balloon, he can do that, too. All they have to do is draw up their wildest dream, and he’ll make it a reality.

“I want to inspire the magic of childhood and let kids and their families who can use a little happiness in their life see that anything is possible,” Van Daele said. He calls his work the Drawing Hope Project. So far, Van Daele has worked with more than 30 children and families always for free.

He’s travelled as far as New Jersey, 13 hours from his home, to shoot, and he’s received requests from all over the world –from Brazil to Thailand. He hopes his project will bring awareness to each child’s cause, and possibly convince people to become organ donors. But mostly, he aims to provide kids with a photograph that will remind them that anything is possible.

>> The artist has worked with 30 kids in two years, and all for free
>> He’s received requests from all over the world, including Brazil and Thailand
>> He tries to create awareness about each child’s cause and illness through his artwork

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