By Tia Lynn Ivey
A local non-profit organization, The Brandy Angel Foundation, has been nominated for a Rising in Community Excellence (RISE) Award out of Atlanta.
Brandy Angel, a local photographer, began using her creative talents to help those in need, launching the “Be The Change” campaign as part of her non-profit organization, The Brandy Angel Foundation.
“I was completely speechless for a second, which if you know me, you would know that that is a very rare occasion,” said Angel. “It literally left me stunned and so incredibly grateful. This year has brought the foundation some amazing volunteers and I just felt so proud of each and every one of them and their efforts. We have struggled this year with finding a way to balance what we want to do with what we are capable of doing, based on our time and funding. So to know that we are still making a difference is just the motivation we needed to try even harder. We are a group of full time mothers and fathers, with full time jobs and even students, and we all work so hard to be as involved as we can.”
In recent years, Angel has used her photography skills to highlight the stories of people in need and people who have suffered through devastating tragedies.
“Ultimately, our goal is to create sustainable experiences that produce joy, compassion and positive change for not only the individuals in need but also for those that reach out to help them,” said Angel. “Our mission is to document and share their stories through photography and media to reach the world and inspire awareness, kindness and positive change. We want to show the world that they too can make a significant difference in the life of someone in need and give those who choose to help the tools to do so.”
According to the website, the “Brandy Angel Foundation’s focus is to support individuals and families throughout difficult times of their lives and help them reach and inspire as many people as they can with their stories.”
Each case Angel takes on is unique. Her organization has helped raised money for a family who lost everything in a fire, helped partner organ donors with a recipients, and helped families search for lost loved ones.
Angel has helped families struggling through terminal illness, the loss of loved ones, patients waiting for organ transplants, and even people who have lost their homes due to fires and natural disasters. The organization has a special focus on children fighting cancer.
“We work tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for children with cancer and their families by providing free photo sessions to document their journey and hold onto their memories forever. We offer compassionate support programs and events while advocating for increased research funds and raising public awareness. We also advocate and educate for the importance and ease of joining the Bone Marrow Registry, National Kidney Registry and Blood Donations. We have many times helped families and individuals in our community that have been affected by fires, infertility, adoption and lost loved ones. We have also been able to offer the families fun experiences through the generosity of amazing local vendors, such as fantasy photo session, braves games, meet and greets with musicians, make overs and we hope this area will continue to grow,” said Angel.
Just during the past year, the foundation has been busier than ever assisting people through the hardest times of their lives.
“This year we have worked tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for families who are suffering from life threatening illnesses, injuries and disabilities,” said Angel. “This year, we managed to set up a monthly princess and superhero craft party that we host at the Egleston Children’s Hospital. It has turned out to be such an amazing experience for the children and for us as well. We even had Kaitlyn Ross from 11alive news, who has covered our stories since the beginning and become such a supporter and friend, came with her husband to a craft party dressed as Super Girl and Superman,” explained Angel. “We hope if we can get more volunteers, quality costumes and more funding we will be able to expand to Scottish Rite and other areas hospitals and groups. We have also teamed up with Ifly Atlanta, a new indoor sky diving facility, and have been able to offer free indoor sky diving for local children and families who are suffering from life threatening illnesses, injuries and disabilities. Being able to offer an experience like that is unbelievable. To witness children and their families that have carried such a weight on their shoulders be weightless and fly through the air will leave you in tears, I promise you that. We are so grateful for the amazing team at Ifly for what they have done and continue to do. We still offer free photography to families that are affected by life threatening illnesses, injuries and disabilities. We also are continuing to share their stories and photos to raise awareness of their needs, whether that be monetary needs, having people join the bone marrow registry, organ donation registry, or even the importance of donating to the right organizations to find a cure for cancer and better treatments.”
A few of Brandy Angel’s photos have gone viral, shown all across globe. One photo in particular put Angel on the philanthropic map. A touching wedding photo went viral, striking the hearts of millions and rousing the interest of national and global media outlets, such as Time Magazine, BBC, The London Times, The Huffington Post, The Today Show, and Good Morning America. Over 3,000 articles have been published about the unique photo, which featured a newly wed couple, their two surviving children, and a superimposed see-through image of the couple’s eight-year-old son, Lake Bozman, who died six months earlier from leukemia.
Anna Bozman Thompson, and her now husband Travis Thompson, had asked Angel to somehow include her late son in their wedding pictures. Angel enlisted the help of a graphic designer, Paul Woodward, to Photoshop in the spirit-like image of Lake beside the family. The result was a beautifully tragic depiction of a life lost too soon, while loved ones left here on earth continue to carry the memory and spirit of the child with them always. “I think it’s because everyone can identify with losing someone and how comforting that would be to look at a picture that,“ said Brandy of the viral spread of her photo last year.
Since then, Angel has photographed dozens of families to help share their stories, raise money for their causes, and create memories for them to cherish forever. Her vision is ever-expanding as she tries to come up with more and more creative ways to help people with whatever means she has available.
“I would say my proudest moment this year was when one of our own features, Monica, who is now 20-years-old and been battling cancer for a huge part of her life, asked if she could be a princess for our last craft party. She made her own stunning Moana costume by hand and even made the shoes the night before the party while she was inpatient and receiving chemo,” said Angel. “She had to get special permission to come down the day of the party since she was a patient, and of course she was granted it. I was so glad she felt up to it and her mother was even dressed up as our own Fairy Godmother. To see the happiness on her face and to hear the comfort she offered these other children was something I will treasure for the rest of my life. She knew just how to talk to them because she knows how it feels to be them. It truly made me realize we are doing something bigger than we realize, we are touching these children and even giving them a way to give back what they needed most: love, compassion, our attention and most important HOPE. “
“We feel like the sky is the limit with our foundation, we hope it continues to grow with each new volunteer and idea and it allows us to offer more amazing experiences for these families as well as give people more tools and ways for them to give back to their communities. If I have learned one thing it’s that people WANT to help people, they just don’t know how, we want to show them how and inspire them to not just THINK it, but to DO it. We want to be the change this world needs and compassion is on the top of that list,” said Angel.