Save the Date for Photo Marathon '07

Okay, gang, mark those calendars: Photo Marathon '07 will take place on Sunday, September 30 in Old Town Alexandria.

Photo Marathon is our annual event of giving, something we started a few years back with the death of Michael Kelly in Iraq, a great journalist and brother of a dear friend. We raised almost $14,000 for the college funds of Michael's two young sons that first year, in one very long day of shooting portraits. Subsequent fundraisers for Tsunami victims and multiple sclerosis raised another combined $20,000. Now it's time to step up again and do some good.

Regular readers of The Dark Slide will remember that I had little trouble finding a worthy beneficiary for this year's event. Early this year, Capt. Brian Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California, was killed in Iraq, leaving a wife, Charlotte, a 14-month-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. What made Capt. Freeman's death leap off the pages of a long profile in the Washington Post this past January was not that he was courageous officer, of that he had graduated from West Point, or even that he used to race bobsleds and skeletons.

No, what made Brian Freeman's life exceptional was his heart. For the last six months of his life, Capt. Freeman, in addition to his regular duties in Iraq, worked tirelessly to obtain a visa for a sick 11-year-old Iraqi boy in desperate need of heart surgery in the United States. Just as the visa he had worked so hard to secure was approved, Capt. Freeman was kidnapped and executed.

I invite all of you to read the emotional piece about Capt. Freeman here in the Washington Post, as well as this follow up story about Charlotte Freeman meeting the boy after his successful surgery in New York.

But there's more to the story.

A few months back, when I originally posted about our intent to help Capt. Freeman's family with our next, then-unscheduled Photo Marathon, the first person to chime in with an offer to help was one of my former brides, Julie Newell. I wasn't surprised.

Julie is my only bonafide blog groupie. I can always count on her to say "great post," or to make some sarcastic comment, or to direct me to the latest in terrible wedding trends (brides underwater was the last one) and even more terrible wedding photography. It was Julie who first alerted me, several years ago, to the phrase "Bridal Industrial Complex," a moniker that always makes me smile. And on top of this, Julie had a fantastic wedding, to Nathan Leslie, one that I continue to mine for pictures for various slide shows, websites, etc.

Anyway, a few months ago Julie asked if I would do an early shoot for this year's Photo Marathon, for a friend of a friend. She said she knew we hadn't scheduled anything for certain yet, but this friend's husband had been killed in Iraq and she was coming to town for the renaming ceremony of a United States Post Office in his name. I was happy to oblige and that's when I got a chance to meet Deb Petty and her adorable sons, Oliver and Owen.

Like Capt. Freeman, Capt. Christopher Petty was also killed in January, a year earlier in 2006, when a roadside bomb exploded. Moreover, just like Brian Freeman, Christopher Petty was involved in a humanitarian effort at the time of his death; he was en route to check on the progress of a school rebuilding project when his convoy was ambushed. You can read all about Christopher Petty here, on his Arlington National Cemetery memorial website.

It was a pleasure to accommodate Deb and her boys at the studio a couple of months ago. That's Oliver up top, very cute and very patriotic. And as I've said many times before, never mess with the karma. And so I'm happy to report that the Petty boys' college fund will be a co-beneficiary of this year's Photo Marathon.

Two good men, and four little children who will be lucky to count on your support.

I know that within an hour or two of posting this, I will receive an email from Julie Newell asking how she can help. It's the best part of my job--all of my brides and grooms turn into great friends.

Once we figure out the logistics for the funds, I'll post some info here. In general, the Photo Marathon on 9/30 will operate just like in the past: Everyone coming to the studio will make at least a $250 contribution. In return, I'll shoot a cool portrait. This is speed photography at work, all for a good cause. In past years we've had kids, dogs, families, you name it (see above). We've used vintage cameras, old Polaroid film, whatever. We'll figure it out. You won't get an hour with me--more like seven minutes--but remember, the main thrust on this day is giving, not getting.

Save the date!

Matt

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