By Marianne J. Dupre
How does a high-fashion photo of a sassy senior quench the thirst of a child in a remote Cambodian village? Through the extraordinary talents of Compassionate Eye Foundation’s volunteer creative community that rallies for a good cause.
In February 2015, a group of stylish women, ages 60 through 85, was the muse for CEF’s Advanced Style shoot in Toronto. “We set out to produce a fashion series, not a fashion series for ‘older’ women,” explained fashion photographer and CEF volunteer John van der Schilden. “We wanted our shoot to be about their spirit and personal style. In our minds, we created distinct characters who didn’t allow conventional thinking about aging to dictate their outlook on fashion.”
Model Penelope Goranson reveled in her moment under the bright lights. “It was like I’d died and gone to heaven,” said the self-professed “sassy” one of the group. “All those clothes, jewelry, scarves – my cup of tea!” Her images from the shoot have now appeared in Zoomer, People, InStyle, Money, and Travel and Leisure magazines.
Vicki Schelstraete, another CEF photographer working on the shoot, agreed. “They were all so excited to be a part of a shoot where they were celebrated for their age,” she said. “For our 85-year ‘young’ model in particular, it was her first-time modeling, exemplifying that you’re never too old to try something new. Her spirit, energy and sense of fun were incredibly contagious, and John captured it all.”
On the other side of John’s camera is an equally energetic verve in Adrianne Dartnall and Rick Lennert, the founders of KIDS International, an organization that benefits from stock photo royalties generated from shoots like the Advanced Style series. A partner for five years, KIDS International is among a number of CEF charitable partners who devote their resources to helping developing nations thrive.
Every year, Adrianne and Rick travel to Cambodia for a four-month stay. “We’ve always gone to Cambodia,” said Adrianne. “It captured our hearts – so many people had lost children and families due to civil war.”
The KIDS partnership with CEF has enabled Adrianne and Rick to accomplish a growing list of projects that includes building and repairing floating schools and health clinics, sponsoring children to go to school, and establishing clean drinking water systems.
On the first drinking water system they built, Adrianne noted how lethargic they had originally found the children to be. “We designed a clean drinking water system and worked with local builders to make it happen,” she explained.” Today, 5,500 children and families have access to clean drinking water, and the difference in their well-being is noticeable. “It’s amazing. The children are more energetic, and happy. It’s wonderful seeing them come up to the tap and drink as much water as they can and not be sick.”
Adrianne and Rick are always eager to talk about their travels, projects and successes. ““We tell stories, and people want to be a part of it,” said Rick. “What we really like about CEF is that we’re partners. They allocate funds and we apply them to a particular project.” In describing their work, he added, “We write what we see. We incorporate hope, heart, and making a difference with a line of humour – that’s our formula.”
The formula works. Penelope Goranson was excited to learn more about photos royalties supporting KIDS International. “If my picture is helping in any way, I am absolutely thrilled. If you get a chance, send them all a hug and all my love.”