Photo booths for a cause

Phoebe Melikidse, 16, in front of her Better in Picture photo booth table which supports the Tyler Robinson Foundation. Courtesy of Phoebe Melikidse
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At 16 years old, Phoebe Melikidse is using her passion for photography to make a difference in the lives of those battling cancer.

One year ago, the West Ranch High School junior started her organization Better in Picture with the goal of raising $10,000 for the Tyler Robison Foundation—which provides financial guidance and support to families who have children with cancer—through charitable photo booths and photo shoots.

“I’ve always done photography and I love it so it felt right to be able to do something that I like and to connect it to something that’s good,” she said.  “It’s such a great thing to do, it’s fun and it doesn’t ever feel like a job.”

Melikidse started the organization about one year ago after she attended a concert for her favorite band, Imagine Dragons.

The band helped found and run the Tyler Robinson Foundation in honor of Tyler Robinson, a 16-year-old diagnosed with Rhabdomysarcoma who formed a strong friendship with Imagine Dragons before his passing in March 2013.

When Melikidse attended the Imagine Dragons concert, she met Jessie Robinson, Tyler Robinson’s brother, and knew she wanted to support the foundation’s mission.

“I got the opportunity to talk to him and learn more about the foundation,” Melikidse said.  “A couple years ago my cousin passed away from cancer too.  We had a direct connection with that and it just felt right to be able to do something to help with it.”

Participants hold props and pose for photos in one of Better in Picture ‘s photo booths. Courtesy of Phoebe Melikidse

After speaking with her parents, Melikidse decided to utilize her photography skills and create a donation-based photo booth with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Tyler Robinson Foundation.

“People don’t have to pay but it’s just an encouraged donation and everyone seems to have a lot of fun doing it,” Melikidse said.  “We’ve done a lot of different things.”

Melikidse has hosted photo booths at everything from West Ranch Volleyball Banquets and Oak Hills Elementary School Dances to birthday parties, a Meghan Trainor concert and a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” movie night at the Greek Theatre.

“We have a fishbowl that we painted donations on it so when we go to the Greek Theatre we just have that out and people ask about the organization,” said Brooke Melikidse, Phoebe’s mother.  “A  lot of times when people take pictures they come back and want to take more and then they are so generous at that point and so happy.”

At birthday parties, individuals usually give a lump-sum donation to the charity, according to Brooke Melikidse.

In one year, Better in Picture has raised and donated exactly $6,365 to the Tyler Robinson Foundation.

Phoebe Melikidse, 16, in front of her Better in Picture photo booth which supports the Tyler Robinson Foundation. Courtesy of Phoebe Melikidse

“It feels amazing to be able to give back,” Phoebe Melikidse said.  “Seeing other people happy and knowing you’re doing it for a good cause just makes you feel great.”

Brooke Melikidse said Phoebe’s work with Better in Picture has also brought the family together to attend events and make props for the photo booth.

“We’ve all had this creative spirit going on this year,” she said.

It also has allowed Phoebe Melikidse to begin pursuing her dream to become a concert photographer and develop a mutual love of music and concerts with her mom.

“She’s gotten me much more hip with my music then I used to be,” Brooke Melikidse said.  “It’s a really nice way for a mom and daughter to have something mutual to talk about and do together.”

Andrew Melikidse, Brooke Melikidse and Phoebe Melikidse. Courtesy of Phoebe Melikidse

Phoebe Melikidse said she plans to continue holding photo booths at concerts, events and birthday parties after Better in Picture reaches its goal of $10,000 and after she graduates high school.

“We want to keep doing the photo booths,” Phoebe Melikidse said.  “We’ve never thought about ending it.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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