All children are a sacred trust. The NOW I CAN foundation, under the leadership of Tracey Christensen and photographer Michael Ririe, have taken these words to heart and turned them into action for children with special needs like Bertrand. As Tracey noted, “These are individuals who spend grueling days stretching, weight bearing, and exercising just to learn to sit, stand, or walk – things we’ve taken for granted our entire lives.”
Michael and Tracey connected in early 2011. Michael’s goal was to create a photographic documentary exhibition and book that would spread the word on the NOW I CAN Intensive Model of Therapy program and enable the Foundation to impact more lives like Bertrand’s. As with all of us who have become connected with the NOW I CAN family, Michael’s project quickly became a life changing experience. As Michael noted, “ My initial approach was to stand back and quietly observe while these patients received their therapy. They didn’t let me simply observe for long as they engaged me and were interested in what I was doing. Soon I was on the therapy mat involved in exercise and photographing on a personal level. I watched as my amazing friends struggled, recognized progress, smiled, fell, laughed, and cried. I felt connected and I felt alive.”
Along with other generous donors, Bertrand’s family made it possible for Michael to publish 500 copies of a NOW I CAN book. The book is an amazing photographic documentary of heroes like Bertrand with Bertrand’s beautiful photo on the opening page of the book. Touching stories from the families intersperse the photos.
To celebrate Michael’s extraordinary accomplishment, Bertrand and his family were invited to an intimate dinner with Michael before the opening reception of the exhibition at the SCERA Center for the ARTS in Orem, Utah. Nana and Papa Might were privileged to make the journey with Bertrand for this special evening.
To our delight Bertrand displayed some of his skills that he has developed since NOW I CAN therapy sessions. He held his grasp on a spoon with his left hand and got his yogurt into his mouth with assistance. To those outside the special needs community this might not seem like a big deal, but for Bertrand using his left hand has been particularly challenging. Every baby step, no matter how small or large, toward reaching his potential is a delight to watch. Even more heartwarming is to see his beautiful smile when he knows he has accomplished a task.
By the time Bertrand arrived at the NOW I CAN exhibition it was filled with people. Michael chose the SCERA Center for the Arts because approximately 20,000 to 30,000 people pass through each month. Bertrand signed in and then went to look at his photos on the wall and admire the artwork that he and other NOW I CAN children had created for the exhibition. He also met up with Sergio, his amazing NOW I CAN therapist. It was a lovely ending to a special evening.