Santa Claritans showed their support for the members of the community battling cancer on Sunday afternoon when they attended the sixth annual Cancer Survivor Celebration at the Residence Inn.
What began as a photo shoot to support cancer survivors grew into a much larger event than photographer Brooke Edwards ever thought. Initially, Edwards wanted to do a small event to help Circle of Hope with their “Thirty-One Days Worth of Hope” campaign and each year more people wanted to become involved.
“I started this event because I have had some family members die to cancer and I’ve never been in a room where a hundred percent of the people in there were not in some way affected by cancer,” Edwards said. “I actually didn’t realize how much people loved this event because I was stuck behind the camera all the other years. People have been telling me how much this event means to them and the coolest thing is that this is the first time that I know fewer people her than I don’t know.“
Edwards said this is the first year she has had a committee to help her organize the event, and thus has been able to interact with attendees more than she had in previous years when she organized it all herself and took the photos of attendees.
In addition to the photo booth, this year’s event included 12 vendors, snacks, raffles, a makeup touchup and interactive art pieces where survivors could write each other messages and attendees could write the names of survivors and those who died from the disease. She hopes to grow the event next year and make it more involved to possibly include a lunch and to move to a larger venue to accommodate the growing interest.
Kimberly Richardson, who attended the celebration last year and became a member of the organization committee this year, said she was so moved by how supportive the community is of those affected with cancer.
“This event is big for me because it means that I have another year of survivorship under my belt,” Ricahrdson said. “It’s so amazing to see how many people support this event because when I was first diagnosed in 2013 I didn’t know about Circle of Hope. I wanted to help organize it this year because I wanted to help give back to the other members of the community.”
Edwards said her goal is to raise at least $1,500 this year for Circle of Hope.
Laura Kirchhoff, executive director of Circle of Hope, said the event is important because taking photos is often an important part of how many cancer survivors’ keep records of their cancer journey and the money raised will help the organization provide services to the community at no cost.
“Photographs are an important way that survivors help keep a record and Brooke’s photos help show the beauty of these people,” Kirchhoff said. “Many times people with cancer feel like they’re alone and events like this show them that they’re not. Santa Clarita is a very close-knit community and we take care of our own.”