Tuesday, June 4, 2013

This Little Girl Would Kick My Butt!

I met Ava Peterson this weekend in Chicago. She and her family drove several hours to see my presentation at Chicago Photography Center. Once I heard about Ava's journey, I asked if I could photograph her, which resulted in the image above. This is her story, as told by her mother:

That Ava is alive at all is no small wonder, let alone that she is a dancer. I learned during pregnancy Ava had a significant heart defect which would likely require open heart surgery upon birth.  When she was born we learned she had a few other defects:  missing kidney, underformed ears, malformed right hand, scoliosis, and we quickly learned she aspirated when she swallowed. She suffered a significant event at 8 weeks of age when she lost her heartbeat and respiration for over 45 minutes. Ava was fed by a stomach tube for the first five years of her life, has twice endured open-heart surgery, a tethered spinal cord surgery, and has a rod in her spine to correct her severe scoliosis. 

This, however, is not a tale of woe as this tiny dancer has not only survived all these events and more, she inspires many with her inner strength, unbelievable resilience and zest for living and dancing without looking back.
"I dance to express my individuality in all different directions. I know that we are here on earth for a reason so why not enjoy it? When you find something that speaks to you, seize it! That is exactly what I have done - I have a great passion for dance. Even when I'm not at the studio I am always moving... I just can't stop the rhythm! I am so glad I have found a beautiful way to express who I truly am inside. When you find an escape to cloud 9, pursue it! You will be glad!" - Ava Peterson, 13

Last year Ava began a project to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation because her friend suffers from the disease.  She has raised over $3000 leaping for sponsorships and plans to continue the project on an ongoing basis.  Check out her site:  https://www.facebook.com/CatchingAir