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A Time To Give[away] - Nominee Selection
WHAT: News   |   WHEN: December 26, 2008

Sorry for the delay in announcing the family that will receive the $1500 custom photography gift in this year's Big Christmas Giveaway. There were a lot of amazing people and families nominated, and it was incredibly difficult picking just one. And I wanted to make sure I had to chance to notify everyone that wrote in before posting anything on the blog. I wish I could photograph each and everyone of them, but I hope to do something like this again soon where I - and other photographers - can give a small gift to many who are tremendous examples of courage and strength.

To all those that wrote in on behalf of someone that didn't get selected - thank you... and I'm sorry. I was truly humbled and moved by their stories, and it feels gut-wrenching not to be able to photograph some of these amazing people/families. I hope I - or another photographer - has this privilege in the future.

As I said, there were so many incredible and heart-breaking stories... choosing just one felt impossible. In the end, though, I kept coming back to Julie. When her sister-in-law Terrah wrote in to tell me about Julie and her kids and the struggles they've overcome and the victory she continues to fight for, I couldn't help but gravitate towards her story. Without further ado, with permission from both Terrah and Julie (who didn't know Terrah had written to me about her), here is Terrah's nomination:

"Hello Matt,

My name is Terrah Rominger and I live in Garland, TX. I have been following your blog and flickr photostream for awhile because I am intrigued with photography and am inspired by your work. :)

Today I am writing you in regards to your "Big Christmas Giveaway." It would be for someone that is very close to not only my heart but my husband's and his family. Julie Bates. She is my sister-in-law who is the most strong-willed and inspiring person I know. Julie has 3 gorgeous children: Sarah, Katherine, and Thomas.

Julie's mother passed away of breast cancer about the same age as she is now, 34. She shortly lost her brother to cancer as well. Unfortunately, Julie and her oldest daughter, Sarah, have carried on the cancerous genes. They were in the hospital together for the year of 2003. We almost lost Sarah of Adrenal Cancer. She has been in and out of surgeries, removing inner body parts on each one. Julie was suffering with breast cancer for the second time. They both pulled through and things seemed to be good for awhile. Their hair grew back and they were constantly glowing with happiness.

Everything seemed wonderful except Julie and her husband had not been getting along so well. After years of struggle emotionally, financially, and health wise the two of them decided to separate. At one point he became somewhat abusive and Julie and the kids went into a women's shelter. She gained strength, filed for divorce and moved back to Texas with the kids this year with her dad in Garland. We were all thankful when she moved back home because she was closer to us and we knew she would be out of that abusive relationship. The kids found a new school and Julie found a new job. Things were starting to look up again.

On October 31st Julie found out that she has cancerous tumors on her liver. They are larger than they have ever been before. She also was one of the employees that got laid off that day at her new job.

Today as I write you Julie is in the hospital with cancer of the liver. The doctor says she will need to stay for a couple of days.

As I just quickly reread this I realized it sounds pretty sad and dreary but please know that Julie is full of life and is always smiling. She inspires others and is a true, genuine spirit. The least I can do for her is enter her in your contest. She would love to have professional pictures done with her and her beautiful family."

Again, thanks to everyone who took the time to write in and nominate someone special. As I mentioned, I hope to do this again soon, so stay tuned on the blog for future giveaways.


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