Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz lost their son, Pablo, to a rare form of cancer when he was six years old. Although the loss was obviously heartbreaking, the online support that Thrailkill and Castelaz received reminded them that they weren't alone. Soon after, they created the Pablove Foundation, an organization that provides funding for cancer research and aims to enrich the lives of youth cancer patients. Through the foundation's Shutterbugs program, children and teens living with cancer are given an outlet through photography.
"The Shutterbugs program is a place for them to escape the stressors of treatment, and for a short period of time, be just like any other student who gets to participate in extracurricular activities," Thrailkill tells Refinery29.
Recently, a group of Shutterbugs students took portraits of their mothers for a project that was very close to Thrailkill's heart. "Being a mom on this childhood cancer journey, I know how remarkable the bond is between parent and child," she says. "We wanted to offer our students an opportunity to express the deep appreciation and love they have for their mothers."
Some of the students' images capture their moms in completely candid moments (such as making dinner, playing games at home, or waiting in the hospital), while others make a point of posing with their moms. In addition to the portraits, they wrote about what they love most about their mothers.
Thrailkill tells us the students' photos were even more beautiful than she expected. And, after the warm reception of this project, there are plans to recreate it with the Shutterbugs and their fathers, too.
Ahead, view a selection of the Shutterbugs' portraits and read their moving reflections on how their moms have impacted their lives.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.