Tampa photographer's lens captures young faces of hope

- Pepito Valdes has spent many afternoons in his South Tampa studio working with families to create that perfect picture. But for decades, he's also been capturing more than just smiles and the light in happy eyes.  

He's been capturing something not always obvious. 

"Sometimes I'd be so sick, just coming home from the hospital, I’d be so sick," recalled Olivia Rivera. 

Olivia, 15, is fighting leukemia. Her photo shoot with Pepito was a gift to her and her mother through 1Voice and Faces of Hope.

"Faces of Hope is an extremely special program,” explained Mary Ann Massolio, the director of the 1Voice Foundation.  “We have partnered with Pepito and he has been filming beautiful faces of parents and children with cancer for 20 years now. It's a free program which is nice because when your child is on treatment, you go through a lot of financial hardships."  

Mary Ann knows those hardships first hand.  She lost her son to cancer. 

"It's something I wouldn't be able to do on my own," agreed Tracey Hernandez, who, along with her son Conner, has been a part of the cancer community for a long time. "We've seen other families have their portraits done by Pepito and they're so special. And so many of the families had to say goodbye to their children but they have this portrait this very beautiful portrait."

Pepito himself says, "I saw how much it meant to the parents, and some of the children didn’t make it and I thought, ‘Wow, they need a legacy.’"

For Olivia, it’s a way to celebrate her last chemo treatment. "I'm stunned someone would want to do something like that for me."  

For more information on Pepito's Faces of Hope go to: www.pepitosfacesofhope.com
For more information on The 1Voice Foundation: 1voicefoundation.org

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