Photographer’s Magical Portraits Bring Sick Kids’ Dreams to Life

It all starts with a drawing. Ideally rendered with crayon, markers, or colored pencils, the drawing features an imaginative scene with the artist depicted as the hero. Perhaps the artist fancies himself a dragon tamer or the lord of a castle under siege; perhaps she is a pirate raiding a secret treasure cove or a faerie fluttering through a field of wildflowers.

Whatever the dream, photographer Shawn Van Daele can make it a reality. The possibilities are endless because—as Van Daele loves to tell the terminally ill children he photographs in his Drawing Hope Projectanything is possible. In the following video, ABC reports on Van Daele’s inspiring portrait project wherein he creates simple portraits of sick kids and transforms them into inspiring, surreal images based on the kids’ artworks:

It was an illness in his own family that caused Van Daele to realize that he could use a surrealist eye to pour a little magic—and hope—into the lives of sick children and their families. What cheered his ailing father would certainly delight ailing little ones. But while Van Daele has brought a lot more than just a “little” joy into the lives of the families he has worked with, he admits that the kids have brought loads more of the stuff into his.

“To see a child’s imagination come to life despite some horrible ‘unawesome’ situations… it can’t help but give you hope,” he says. “To use your abilities and talents to bring smiles to ‘sick kids’ and their families—there isn’t anything in the world that feels better than that.”

Here are some of the dreams that Van Daele has made into realities:



Anyone with a child battling a health condition can submit a drawing and personal story on the Drawing Hope website to participate in the project free of charge. As Van Daele travels, he contacts families who have submitted information near those areas and coordinates photo shoots.

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One response to “Photographer’s Magical Portraits Bring Sick Kids’ Dreams to Life”

  1. Louise says:

    Shawn – you’re a wonderful person. thanks for making those kids happy for a little while.

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