Published on July 20th, 2015 | by Joanna Sappenfield


Pablove Shutterbugs helps kids be kids

Seventeen-year-old Taylor squats down next to her photo hanging on a wall and smiles as a photographer snaps a picture. Her photo is among 25 others at The Pablove Foundation art show, a culmination of the program Pablove Shutterbugs, currently featured at the Museum of Glass.

Pablove Shutterbugs Gallery Opening

Pablove Shutterbugs Gallery Opening, photos by Colleen Pfeischiefter, courtesy of The Pablove Foundation

All the photos in the gallery were taken by pediatric cancer patients from Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and are on on display now until October 1, 2015.

The Pablove Foundation, founded in 2008, is an organization created with the mission to help “kids still be kids” while in treatment for cancer. They created the Pablove Shutterbugs program to “teach children living with cancer to develop their creative voice through the art of photography.”

Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital received a grant through Pablove funded largely by the Livestrong Foundation. Eleven other art galleries across the country were developed this year.

Janelle Tiegs is the director of operations at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. Her office is right down the hall from the oncology ward.

Working down the hall from children fighting debilitating illnesses was just part of her everyday life, until one day her daughter was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer.

In February 2014, Tiegs watched as her daughter Taylor began her journey through the illness and began being treated in that very ward.

“It’s so stressful as a parent to go through this,” Tiegs said. “I have so much respect for these parents that have to go through it for years.”

Taylor’s treatment successfully concluded in a short period of time compared to some, whose treatment can last up to three years.

Janelle tells me that her daughter has been in remission for a year as of July 8.

“The further we get away from that event the less chance of re-occurrence and the more relaxed I will be,” Janelle said.

20150611 Pablove Shutterbugs Gallery Opening

Robbie Heckard and family views his Shutterbug piece at the gallery opening; Photos by Colleen Pfeischiefter, courtesy of The Pablove Foundation

Both Taylor and her mother attribute much gratitude and joy to The Pablove Foundation. Janelle says Taylor is too shy to say but she has a great eye for photography and Pablove helped her cultivate and celebrate her creativity during the beginning of her remission.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with opportunity,“ Taylor said. “I definitely think Pablove is a great program and I’m really happy I did it.”

Pablove Shutterbug is a five-week program held every Saturday. Cameras are given and teaching assistants instruct the 15 kids in the fall and spring sessions, teaching them photography skills on perspective, light, and shadow, and how to tell a story through a photo.

Marcy Powell, Mary Bridge nurse, applied for the $12,500 grant. She thought it would be a “fun little project” but doubted Mary Bridge would be the recipient of the grant.

“We were such a small hospital compared to some who were applying,” Marcy said. “We applied anyway and then we found out we had to have an online voting process and whoever got the most votes got the grant.”

Through the wonder of Facebook, they received over 10,000 votes.

“Most of us didn’t know what we were doing or how to use social media so we had our kids do it,“ Marcy said.

Marcy considers herself to be the most rewarded out of everyone.

“I have to poke them with needles, give them chemotherapy, and do things that hurt them,” she said. “So to me it was tremendous to be able to do something that was fun, exciting, and joyful for them.”

Vicki Zoller, the main instructor for Tacoma’s Pablove Shutterbug program, sees this program as a way for the kids to have freedom from being a “sick kid.”

“It’s a distraction,” Vicki said. “I think they need that.”

Vicki said that if a student is sick during class time, one of the teaching assistants will find them in the hospital and give them their assignment.

The students either have to be currently in treatment or have recently been treated, but some are in healthier stages than others.

Marcy Powell tells of one student that lost her battle to a brain tumor before the program ended.

“We lost her but her art is immortalized on that wall. She left a legacy,” Marcy said.


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About the Author

Joanna Sappenfield

is a recent UW Tacoma grad and aspiring journalist trying to figure out how to live life outside the bounds of academia. So far she's discovered naps and reading for pleasure.

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