Last week, 50 families from across the country traveled to San Diego to be a part of the Everybody Plays photo shoot with photographer, author and mom Kelle Hampton. Something occurred that was more powerful than just a marketing campaign for Step2 and Infantino; there were proud moments, milestones, smiles, giggles and friendships built during this magical occasion. This photo shoot was and still is an ongoing movement to show that every single child, no matter their age or ability plays, and has fun doing it.
Grace’s mom described her experience at Everybody Plays as comfortable and special. “No one cared what type of abilities your child had, they were just happy your child was there.” She was so proud to see her daughter play with other children and pose for the camera. Other moms, including Apollo’s mom, felt at ease as Kelle took pictures of their children. “[Kelle] was comfortable and flexible with them all. If a child was having a hard time, she simply gave them a break. Once they were happy she was ready to shoot again. There was no pressure and everyone was having fun.”
Although these wonderful children were the focal point of this photo, none of these beautiful pictures would have been possible without Kelle. The way she photographed and handled each child with such passion was heartwarming. She posted about her experience last week on her blog. “If you were part of the shoot this year, I want to tell you how special it was meeting you and your children–all of you,” she wrote. “We had a tight schedule and lots of babies to attend to, but I remember your hugs and your stories and your children. I saw the pride in your eyes, I felt how much you love them. I watched you soothe them and kiss them and work hard to make sure your babies were comfortable and aware of your presence.”
Children and parents came out of their comfort zones for this event and it could not have made us more ecstatic to see many children overcome their fears and create such beautiful images for everyone to enjoy.
The picture above truly embodies the love and acceptance of this annual event. The little girl in the pink top holding the other children together is Coco, the winner of the Everybody Plays Essay contest. Coco has Down syndrome and Leukemia, which thankfully is in remission. This strong little warrior just finished her last round of chemotherapy earlier this year and, as much as she has been through, her smile proves how spectacular she really is. She is a testament of strength and courage – we can all learn something from this inspirational little girl.
The families that attended this photo shoot go through struggles every day, but they also make the most of each day with their special and extraordinary children. The Everybody Plays campaign recognizes that each child has different abilities, but we also salute the parents that have given their time and dedication to their kids. These parents are pushing to make the world a better place for their children. With their help, Step2 and Infantino can exemplify the message of love and acceptance. After all, everybody plays.