I was incredibly shocked to receive the WPPI / Rangefinder Humanitarian Award, along with my wonderful husband Steve Lackey, last week at the 2015 WPPI Awards Ceremony. A huge thank you to Lauren Wendle, who introduced the award by saying something I believe in deeply, “When asked if one person can truly make a difference, Mother Teresa once said it is always one person who makes the difference.” We often look around at everything that is wrong in our society, everything that needs fixing, and just feel like it’s all too much. How can one person possibly change anything? I know that I have often stood up to try to make a real difference and have felt so overwhelmed that I just sat back down – and that I have done that more than once. I know I’m not the only one who has felt that way, either. Over the past twelve years, though, Steve and I have been involved in a variety of projects and have happily donated time, energy and funds to a variety of incredible organizations – but our heart has always been with children who do not have families. The system of foster care and adoption is well-intended but often plays out in a way that discourages and frustrates instead of enabling those who wish to grow their family. There are so very many reasons this system should support and lift those who want to create or expand their families. There are so very many reasons children without families should have a home and a family and know that sense of belonging through and through. Having adopted twice before and actually quite in the mix once again (details on that coming soon), we wish to help change that. Obviously, it’s not something that we can take on and do all at once. But we’re determined to chip away as best we can until we can get in a position to effect real change, and to help enable others who wish to do so, as well. We founded BeautifulTogether.org to do just that. We have been working on this organization since last summer but didn’t formalize it until recently – filing for non-profit status and in the process of building out a rather robust website. Our current, rather simple BeautifulTogether.org site gives you a hint of where we’re going with this. And we’re going to need help. If you are interested in following along or helping out with the variety of projects that we will be announcing soon, please sign up to be part of the change we hope to see. Happily, my friends at Animoto want to share the love, too – they already make it extraordinarily simple to create high-quality, professional video slideshows, and they are now giving away a full year pro subscription, valued at $249, to one random individual who signs up to join the newsletter and comments here to let us know why they did. Thank you, Animoto. We’ll be drawing the name of the winner in one week, on March 17th. A heartfelt thank you to Collin Pierson for sending me these beautiful images – I was pretty shocked to not only learn about the award but to see Steve show up, too. He knew in advance and had kept it a surprise for me, so I was pretty floored when he showed up after they announced the award (I thought he was home in North Carolina) – and Collin photographed it all quite wonderfully. This first image. This first one is fantastic because, as a photographer, I am always trying to show much about who a person is, how they feel – I want to show them physically but also much of their spirit. Collin did that for me here – this is exactly how I felt walking up on that stage. I felt pretty overwhelmed, grateful and inspired. Still feel that way, actually. Will for quite some time to come, too. Here is Steve walking up to surprise me and lead me to the stage. Without my shoes, I might add. I had kicked off my heels to relax and enjoy the show, and since I kinda floated up on stage in shock, I hadn’t noticed I was barefoot in front of thousands of people until I walked up to the microphone. Ah, well ; ) That last one – posing for a photograph with the wonderful and rather hard-working Lauren Wendle and Jason Groupp of WPPI and Rangefinder Magazine. Very grateful to them for this recognition and, more importantly, for their dedication to making a difference in this space. This Humanitarian Award is an extraordinary vote of confidence from an organization I have loved being a part of for quite some time. We look forward to partnering with them to do some incredible things with Beautiful Together for some time to come. Oh, and those bare feet? I was sitting next to my good friend Jeremy Cowart, who has been doing incredible things with Help Portrait for years, and he scrambled to grab my camera and take some photos, which I didn’t find until a few days later. These show off that bare look in all its disheveled glory: I sincerely hope many of you join our Beautiful Together community – and then come back here and comment as to why you cared to – and I look forward to giving at least one of you a thank you valued at $249 for your pro subscription to Animoto in exactly one week!