Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Keiki O Oahu Project for Charity

Back in 2004 I embarked on a project, the purpose of which was to highlight local Oahu people who are involved in charity work. I called the project "Local Heroes", and asked people I knew to recommend or nominate subjects to be highlighted. I determined that there would be a total of 12 people that would be selected for the project, and I would interview them to find out what charities they worked with and what motivated them to do so. Then I would create a portrait of each of them.

The 12 portraits would be exhibited at the major shopping malls on the island accompanied by the written interviews explaining what they did for the charities, and their motivation. The 12 portraits and interviews were on display for one week at each of the 4 major malls.

As I got to meet and interview the subjects for the project, first I was impressed by the selflessness of each of them, and then I became driven to find other ways that I could help. Originally I intended to repeat the same project each year, but the cost involved turned out to be more than I could take on the following year. And so I discontinued that project. However, I was still very much wanting to help deserving charities in the best way I could.

As a subscriber to Professional Photographer magazine, I read each month about the different "good deeds" that photographers around the country are doing to give back to their communities. One such "deed" is a project to raise money for a local children's hospital. This struck a cord with me as one of the charities I had highlighted in 2004 was the Shriners Hospital for Children.

The project I had read about was being done in Chicago, and when I contacted the photographer there I learned that he was copying a project that had been done in Los Angeles, and that photographer was copying the project as done in Australia!

Anyway, in each case the call to action was basically a call for children to be photographed for a coffee table art book. All the session fees are being donated to the local children's hospital, as well as a portion of the sales of the art book. This appealed to me a great deal, so I contacted the Shriners Hospital here on Oahu and presented the project to them. They loved the idea, (of course), but didn't think their headquarters would approve of the Art Book part as it hadn't been done here before...

Of course anyone with any sense can see that the whole project hinges on the Art Book part of the project to make it work and get parents to sign up to have their children photographed for a charity project! After all, if they were inclined to make a donation without being given an incentive to do so, they would! They wouldn't need me to photograph their kids in order to make a donation!

Long story short, I finally decided to do, and publicize the project without the help of any hospitals or other charities. And I chose 3 local charities to benefit: Helping Hands Hawaii, which among other things provides school supplies to under privileged children; The Ronald McDonald House of Hawaii, which provides a place to stay for families of children who come here from out of state and who need special care; and the Shriners Hospital for Children of Hawaii, which provides care for children in need without cost to the families. All very deserving charities.

I have set a goal to photograph 100 Oahu children (keiki) for the first book, and raise $10,000 to be divided to the three charities. The session fee for this project is only $100, and 100% of that is being donated to the charities. If and when I have photographed enough local keiki to reasonably fill a coffee table art book, a portion of the sales of the book will also be donated to the charities.

The challenge I've been facing is getting the word out about this project. Without the help of any of the charities, when I send out a press release, as a for profit company it doesn't get much support from the newspapers or the radio and TV stations. And as a small business owner and only employee, I don't have a lot of time to go out and personally distribute flyers and posters, although I have put in quite a few hours of effort doing just that!

I'm just one guy who wants to help. Unfortunately since I began this project in November, I've only had 5 responses that resulted in keiki portrait sessions. If you have any ideas on how to get the word out about this project, excluding paid advertising, please let me know!

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