Flashes of Hope

updated 12/22/2008 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/22/2008 01:00AM

The toy toucan doesn't do the trick, nor the wagon and two lollipops. The Cheetos work, though, and Christopher Cummings' tears fade as the photographer starts snapping shots of him and his parents. Cummings, a year old and weighing just 18 lbs., is having his picture taken at the Cleveland Clinic, where he has spent far too much of his short life being treated for a tumor on his optic nerve. "I've never had a photo of the three of us," says his mom, Crystal Carroll, 20. "We'll cherish this."

Kids like Christopher spend so much time at hospitals—he comes once a week for chemotherapy—that visiting a photo studio is out of the question. So Flashes of Hope, an Ohio-based nonprofit with branches in 30 cities, brings the studio to them. Made up of professional photographers who volunteer their time, the group captures lasting impressions of 3,000 sick children each year, says cofounder Allison Clarke, whose son Quinn—one of the inspirations for Flashes—was rediagnosed with cancer in May (see box, page 76). "For so long I've been comforting parents," Clarke says. "Now I'm trying to be strong for my son, but he's not letting this get him down, so I can't either."

True Superhero
Benjamin Barajas, 4, paid tribute to one of his idols by donning a Spider-Man cape at his photo shoot last year at Phoenix Children's Hospital. "He's really into superheroes," says his mom, Shauna. Diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in 2006, Benjamin is now in remission.

Photo Ready
"The picture captured her completely," says Melissa DeVries of Madison, Wis., of Ida, 3. Ida's treatment for hepatoblastoma, cancer of the liver, ended in April 2007. "She's doing great," says her mom.

A Little Trouper
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic removed part of a tumor from Christopher Cummings' optic nerve in February. Now 23 months old, he is undergoing treatment for four newly discovered tumors. "It's the biggest issue for him, but he's my little soldier," says his mom, Crystal Carroll (right, with Christopher and his dad, Kyle Cummings).

Budding Fashionista
"Yay, makeup!" was all A'Ciana Underwood, 9, could say as she walked into the makeshift photo studio at the Cleveland Clinic. Born with sickle-cell anemia, A'Ciana (photographed with her then nurse, Denise Davis, left) comes once a month to the hospital for blood transfusions and checkups. "I want to be a fashion designer," says the dimpled fourth grader, who applied eye shadow on her mom, Juanita Jones (below), before posing with her. "Since A'Ciana was 3 months old, any time she sees a camera, she's ready to pose," says Jones.

Dressed for Success
Gerald Winch, 6, wore a suit for his photo shoot in January to honor his dad, Brian. "Sometimes when he goes out he wants to dress up like Dad going to court," says Brian, a supervisor in a legal department. Two months later Gerald began chemotherapy at the Cleveland Clinic for his acute lymphocytic leukemia. The first grader is now in remission and loves going to school. "He's the first one in the door," Brian says.

A Brave Battle
Hannah Huckfeldt, 3, had just completed treatment for clear-cell sarcoma of the kidney when this photo was taken last year. But a follow-up exam showed the cancer had metastasized in her brain, prompting her to undergo chemo and radiation. She finished Sept. 25, and will have periodic brain MRIs for the next year. "She's quite the little fighter," says her dad, J.C. Huckfeldt of Chandler, Ariz.

Chatterbox
Ever since July, when Imani McMorris, 4 1/2, started taking a new drug for her sickle-cell anemia, she's been free of the aching joints and high temperatures that sometimes caused her to be rushed to the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Now Imani is in pre-kindergarten, where she's learning sign language and Spanish. "She loves going to school and she loves to talk—like me," says her mom, Stephanie. "She's my little princess."

One Day at a Time
In February Isaiah Crawford's family learned his neuro-blastoma had returned. Since then Isaiah, 5, endured three nine-week bouts of chemotherapy; in October, surgery to remove tumors in his abdomen was a success. "You really just learn to enjoy today," says father Mat (below). Isaiah (left, with brother Judah, 4) admires photos of himself taken at the Cleveland Clinic in March.

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