(Warning, this is long blog post, been working on it for what seems like forever, but you will be rewarded with a story of an amazing Woman & lots of pictures throughout!)
The prize package was beyond sweet! Don’t believe me? Check out this list of sweetness…
- A 1 hour massage from Elements Therapeutic Massage in Mechanicsburg (Ahhhhhhhhh…..)
- Over $750 in clothes & accessories & a complete fashion consultation from Creative Elegance Boutique in Camp Hill (WOW!!!!)
- Haircut, color, manicure & pedicure from Vixen Salon in Harrisburg 717-972-0523 (glam!)
- All day limousine transportation from Unique Limousine of Harrisburg (pish posh!)
- Dinner and drinks for the winner & a guest at Harrisburg Hilton’s Raspberriesrestaurant (delish!!!!)
And we were so honored to also be a sponsor adding to the Prize package the following…
- Photo documentary coverage of the day (almost 7 hours) by yours truly Grace Lightner Photography, including a mini photo session showcasing the winner’s “After” look with the winner receiving a DVD of all the final images
- An All-Inclusive Digital Portrait Package (For 1 hour, and a set of all the deliciously finished images in High Resolution on DVD) to be scheduled later for their Family
To enter you had to attach a picture and submit in about 30 words or less why you or another exceptional Mom deserved to win. LOTS of entries were collected. But 1 Mom really shined out from the pack. And from what I heard it wasn’t the winner who cast in her own entry, in fact entries were submitted on her behalf by MANY others, and as far as I know, without her knowledge! And that incredible winning Mom was….
So what makes Bethany so incredibly awesome and ultimately the pick for the Mom’s Makeover? Well… she is a devoted Mother to 2 awesome kids, Daughter Audrey who is 7 and son Nathanial “Nate” who is 4 1/2. She is also an amazing wife to an equally amazing Husband Jim. She also has a long established career that she is passionate about as a High School Math Teacher at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster and is highly regarded, respected and looked upon as a role model by her students and her peers. She is an amazing friend to those fortunate enough to call her their own, and inside of her contains a huge heart that is full of love, goodness, humor, kindness and acceptance. She is an inspiration of a person to many and is loved and admired by countless people because she gives so much of herself to others. And this is boldly apparent when you have handfuls of others submitting entries in for Bethany without her even being aware of it.
In addition to being an amazing Mom and a respected teacher and role model to hundreds (maybe thousands) of students throughout her teaching career, she is also regarded as a warrior and hero. And it was the entry by her Husband Jim that really revealed the special gold quality of this Mom and sealed her place as the Winner… This past August Bethany, at just 36, was diagnosed with colon cancer (we will refer to it as being sick or her illness as Bethany & Jim have been very careful to be sure everyone only refers to it that way in front of their children). She later told me that at her age, this kind of diagnosis is almost unheard of, and after doing some research I found that 90% of all cases do in fact occur in people age 50 or older.
As a sponsor, and in order to better connect with the winner, I was allowed to view the winning entry letter that Bethany’s husband Jim wrote in. I wish I could share it in it’s entirety because the admiration, strength and love that radiates from Jim’s words is so incredibly moving… And yet the message is also equally heartbreaking, as you realize the magnitude and complexity of what this young Family has been going through and will still go through as they try to adapt their lives in order to fight and win this battle and still maintain a level of normalcy for their children and for themselves. Each sentence was soul stirring… and each word was laden with the kind of emotion you would imagine that runs through the head of a Husband and Father who is keenly aware of all that is going around him and all that his Wife is doing to remain strong. For Jim, Bethany is a source of enormous strength and inspiration. She is his hero. The picture that was attached to his entry was one that their Daughter drew of their Mom.
Despite this diagnosis, surgery and treatment which includes 6 months of chemotherapy (that at the time of this posting should be almost halfway over), Bethany has exhibited unimaginable dedication to not let this affect her and her Family’s normal way of life more than it has to. She has been scheduling her treatment so she misses as little school as possible (just a few hours every 2 weeks) in order to continue teaching her students (that in itself just blows me away).
Central Penn Parent has a wonderful story of Bethany’s Makeover published in their January Edition covering the story of Bethany’s Mom’s Makeover Day.
And although I am no a journalist by any means, I figured for those that are interested in learning more about the day, Bethany, and the Sponsors, I could fill in some of those blanks from my point of view. (What’s a blog for anyways right?)
Bethany’s Well deserved Day of Pampering
I had the great honor and joy of following Bethany around for most of the scheduled day to document Bethany’s Mom’s Makeover Day photodocumentary style. The Big Day was December 9 and it was a GORGEOUS sunny day! It was chilly but not too cold or windy.
The limousine picked Bethany, her Mom, Sister and Daughter up in Lititz and brought them to Elements Therapeutic Massage in Mechanicsburgs for her 1st scheduled appointment. I should have been there for Bethany’s arrival however instead I was a different Elements, Elements Hairology in Camp Hill to be precise, confused with an equally confused receptionist until we both realized I was at the wrong Elements, oops… She was nice enough to direct me to the one I should have been at, and so off I race…
Once I arrive at the RIGHT location, I finally got to meet the beautiful Bethany and her equally beautiful entourage that included her 7 year old Daughter Audrey, Mom Carol Moffitt & younger Sister Jill Ross. I take one look at Bethany, think, and then say “I don’t know how you are going to be made over… You are already Gorgeous! Seriously!” So maybe we will call this Bethany’s Well Deserved Day of Pampering instead of Bethany’s Mom’s Makeover
(And I have to say everyone was dressed so nice! Audrey got tons of compliments on the super cute & sassy outfit she picked out all on her own.)
It was there I also got to finally meet the lovely Tara Peffley who was in charge of organizing & executing this wonderful Mom’s Makeover idea! (Thank you so much Tara for all your hard work!) I also got to meet a couple of lovely ladies from Element’s including owner Debbie Fasnacht and the very pretty Receptionist. Everyone was so nice!
Bethany was awarded a Gift Certificate for a couples massage to use after she completes her chemotherapy treatment.
Unique Limousine of Harrisburg’s Tracy Salinger-Long provided a stretch Lincoln Navigator to whisk Bethany and her Family around ALL DAY. Kathy, the lovely Chauffeur, invited me to take a peek inside this luxury mobile and all I can say is wow…
First off it is very, very, very long… I guess that goes without saying… It also has a TV (probably a couple actually) and enough drinking glasses to empty about 5 bottles of champagne in a round. I am not entirely sure how many total people it could comfortably accomadate, I am too terrible at math & estimating to even begin to figure it out. However it did just pop into my head… how many clowns could fit in here at once?
There is a mirror that goes along the length of the ceiling, because it doesn’t look quite big enough as it is =) And the mirror has these pinpoints of light scattered throughout to mimic starlight for evening rides. Love!!! The mirror is great for checking makeup for 20 people at one time, your whole outfit and it is also great for making silly faces in…
(silly face courtesy of Audrey)
So after I spent a few minutes living the high life, I snapped up a few shots, unboarded the stretch Navigator and hopped into my Murano which for some reason felt much smaller. (Don’t worry I still love you my sweet little Murano, Muah!).
I sped off (don’t worry I wasn’t really speeding, more like nimbly navigating) to Creative Elegance Boutique in Camp Hill with the goal of getting there before the limo arrived so I could get some shots of it pulling up. (I won!)
I was impressed watching Kathy the chauffeur park the limo. I am sure she gets asked ALL the time if it is hard to park a limo, and I didn’t want to disappoint her so I asked her as well. And she explained simply, it depends, but (as a professional) she has gotten quite used to it. I knew there was a lot of down time on the schedule for Kathy which is probably the case for many jobs. So I also asked how she manages to go about killing so much time. She gave me a mysterious smile and said “Oh I have LOTS of little things I do to pass the time.” Good enough =)
Bethany and her entourage were welcomed by the local Celebrity Kathy Cadieux of Creative Elegance Boutique. Why do I call her a local celebrity? Well because I see her several times a week on TV in the Creative Elegance commercials (pssst your advertising dollars are working hard for you girl!). In addition, she has the brilliantly exciting personality and aura of… well a Celebrity! She greeted everyone with a huge welcoming smile and a big warm hug, as if she were greeting a group of good old friends that she has not seen for years. She was awesome!
Now I have to give a serious amount of praise to Kathy & the lovely Fashion Stylists at Creative Elegance… They really put in a LOT of time and effort putting together a very large hand picked collection of outfits based on the measurements and preferences in style provided by Jim. And they were just so serious in their work. It reminded me of what could have been a scene in a movie where the Princess stands in the middle of the room while a half a dozen attendants flit around her fussing and primping over every little detail as they dress her, making sure everything looks perfect and of course everything is to the Princess’s liking.
And it wasn’t like the Boutique wasn’t busy. Yet the Fashion Stylists, headed by Chris Brye, were so patient and doting making sure that Bethany not only ended up in an outfit she loved but also completed the look with shoes, a gorgeous little bag and jewelry too (plus a bunch of other extras!). Bethany tried on at least 4 outfits but when she walked out in that blue dress, I think it was pretty obvious to everyone, especially her, that THAT was THE outfit. It looked as if it were custom made for her body and she looked spectacular in it, and boy did her smile radiate as she took in the different angles of herself in the mirror. And I should mention, Bethany prefers practical, but I think the blue dress made her forget that. =)
In between shooting I enjoyed chatting with Bethany’s Family, they were just delightful! I could see how Bethany’s amazing personality was developed growing up with such wonderful ladies in her life. Her fashionista Sister Jill was expecting her first baby and so gave Bethany a bunch of her non maternity clothes to borrow so they didn’t go unused (one of the many great benefits of a girl having a Sister). In fact, I thought Bethany’s outfit was super cute, and she pointed to her Sis because the jacket & belt was borrowed from her. Her Mom was a doll, and the looks on her face watching her Daughter getting so well pampered were just priceless. Audrey, Bethany’s 7 year old daughter was a bit of a fashion guru herself. When Bethany came out to model each outfit, she was sure to ask Audrey her expert opinion on each look. She thought 1 dress looked kind of like a ballerina dress and then showed Mom how to do a proper ballerina move.
And BTW on a side note, I walked around this gorgeous Boutique and they have a whole room dedicated to Spanx, it is called the Spanx Room, now that is a lot of Spanx!
What a gorgeous storefront!
BTW I bet you could play 6 degrees of Kathy Cadieux. Partway through the makeover it was discovered that years ago, Bethany actually taught one of Kathy’s sons in school, what a coincidence! And after the wardrobe makeover as the gang headed out to the limo, it turned out Kathy of Creative Elegance also knew the chauffeur Kathy of Unique Limousine! In fact they just saw each other a week prior when Kathy chauffeured another shopper to Creative Elegance. Creative Elegance Shoppers are just so pish posh! More big warm hugs all around before Kathy of Unique whisked Bethany & Co off to Harrisburg for the remaining part of her makeover at Vixen Salon…
Once we arrived at Vixen, it was time for Bethany’s Daughter, Mom & Sis to be escorted back to Lititz while Bethany started her physical makeover in the hands of multi talented Kristin Benkovic. Kathy would be picking up Bethany’s Husband Jim to bring back for the big reveal AND for a romantic dinner for 2 later at Harrisburg Hilton’s Raspberries.
Now Bethany also has a 4 year old son Nathanial “Nate” who for the obvious reasons (hanging out with a bunch of females and being an audience to a fashion show… b o r i n g…) did not come out to hang out with us gals. However, he was VERY curious in regards to the limousine. After dropping off the ladies back at the Hovan’s residence, Kathy graciously took Nate out for a joy ride so he could check out the limo. I am betting he had a blast =) And I’m going to assume that no button was left unpushed, at least that is what my goal would be if I were 4.
It took me about 15 minutes of driving around in circles in the city trying to figure out how to get into the Strawberry Square parking garage, before I finally figured it out (I am directionally challenged). By the time I got to Vixen Salon, located in the Strawberry Square area, Bethany was already in Kristin’s chair beginning her transformation. She was going to get a hair cut, highlights, pedicure, manicure and makeup, the WORKS! Being that Bethany is a no-fuss natural beauty, this was probably similar to her stuffing a year or more worth of beauty services into just a few hours.
There were some chunks of downtime, as we waited for Bethany’s beautiful blond locks to become even more blond, where we (Bethany, Kristin, Tara & I) just sat around and talked. I suppose I could be considered a very curious person and one of the things I really enjoy about my job is the ability to learn about the people I photograph just through casual conversation. It allows me to more easily choose the images that best represent the people in the photographs I capture, and I also have deeper connection to the faces which in turn helps guide me in the editing process. Plus I feel everyone has a story that deserves to be heard and I enjoy listening to other people’s stories and even sharing some of those tidbits when I blog. I think a person’s story or a story behind an image adds such depth to the portraits and images I showcase on this blog. And having a story to relate the images to, I think, make viewing the images so much more fascinating. And in most cases, if people feel comfortable, most truly enjoy sharing their stories.
So we talked quite a bit. Bethany was very candid and quite funny actually. I learned Bethany loves teaching High School Math, she teaches a variety of math classes which keeps it from getting boring for her. Being that her students are much older than her kids, she is a little more open in speaking with them about her illness. This is also where she revealed more of her wonderfully witty sense of humor. She chuckled as she confided that she has found she can use it to her advantage in getting kids to do their schoolwork better and more often. I learned more about her chemotherapy and was surprised to find that she only misses a few hours every couple of weeks from work to it. It occurred to me that she planned it that way to miss as little school as possible, and when I asked, she acknowledged it. She explained that it was more of an inconvenience to miss a day and have to write a study plan for a substitute than to just be there and teach the class herself. I could see the logic behind that… Besides, she loves teaching, and she loves her students. I was amazed by her strength and level of dedication, but not really surprised… She spoke of 1 student she saw several years after he graduated. He was one of the brightest students in her class and yet he was working at a fast food place with no real plans for the future, far from where she thought or hoped he would be.
That reminded me of myself after high school, I was bright but my aspirations were always fuzzy. It made me think about my favorite teachers from the past, the ones I could talk to and the ones that were so encouraging and that I admired deeply because they cared so much. My memory with names is terrible but I can picture their faces clearly in my head and now had the urge to seek some of them out to let them know that I did in fact turn out okay. but more importantly to let them know how amazing they were as teachers…
Bethany spoke of her family. Her 2 children and how everyone was getting ready for Christmas. Audrey told me earlier in the day she wanted to get Just Dance 2 for Wii. Grandma told me that they don’t even own a Wii, but she played it at a friend’s house and loved it! (We actually ended up getting it for Christmas in our household and I can attest it is a lot of fun to play and hilarious to watch others play.) I wonder if it made it on Santa’s list.
Her husband is also a teacher at the same school. Jim is the most awesome Dad & Husband she could have ever hoped for. She said a couple of times that she was definitely the lucky one in the relationship as she feels she married “up”. But I think they both did pretty darn good.
She is grateful for everything she has and she is so humble in how amazing she truly is. I gathered that at her core she is a nurturer, an inspirer, a comforter, someone who prefers to waste little time worrying about the negative because she would much rather spend her time focusing on the positive and just “doing”. She is the type of woman who may have nothing in common with someone else but would take the time to try and find common ground in order to make a person feel more welcome, at ease, accepted. If she were running a race and winning but noticed a runner who had fallen and was struggling to rise, she would be the one to run back, help that person up and get them to the finish line…
It is always an exciting yet scary thing to go from long to short hair, but as Kristin blew out Bethany’s new shorter and lighter “do”, she really looked quite amazing with her new bob. As Bethany drank in her new reflection with a smile, she asked how much time it would take to do (she prefers practical!). And Kristin assured it would not take much time. Then onto the make up chair where Kristin masterfully accentuated Bethany’s natural beauty with a flawlessly natural look. Bethany’s new shoes were open toed heels, so a pedicure was added to the manicure to complete the look. Kristin gave Bethany the works!
(And BTW Kristin is a fun & funny gal with volumes of funny & interesting stories that do not come sugarcoated. She is also stunning, from her perfect hair & make up down to her cool feather earrings… In addition to owning and working at Vixen Salon, Kristin is also does on-location Hair & Make Up for Weddings & events. Just contact her at Vixen Salon in Harrisburg at 717-972-0523.)
Bethany’s Husband Jim, would soon be arriving by limo to lay eyes on his wife’s new look. I pictured him pausing about a hundred times throughout the day to wonder what Bethany was doing at that particular second, maybe even having a few conversations with others predicting what her outfit might look like and what her new look would entail. But always hoping that she was enjoying herself and letting herself get rightfully pampered. It felt good to know that I was filling in some of those blank spots with each shot I took.
Once Bethany’s manicure had sufficient time to dry, we got the call that Jim was almost there. So in a flurry, Bethany got dressed while we helped make sure everything was in place. Her Makeover was finally finished! And as we stood back to take in her final look all you could think was wow… breathtaking… just STUNNING! Kiss “Practical” goodbye, because it just got traden in for Glamorous!
I had a few moments to capture some shots of her finished look before the limo pulled up with Jim.
Everyone got into position and we gave Jim the signal to walk in. Bethany was hiding behind a screen. And Jim remarked he could still see her because there was a mirror on the back wall behind Bethany. Oops! But it didn’t ruin in the surprise, because when she walked out, his face looked like that (look up).
The reaction of his eyes, his face, and what must be going through his mind was… priceless… It was as if he swallowed a bomb loaded with “happy” and it exploded inside of his chest. You could almost see just by the expressions that crossed his face, the blur of emotions and thoughts of him comparing what she looked like when he last saw her this morning to what she looked like now in front of him. And as the evening went by I am sure he compared how she looked this evening to what she must have looked like when he first met her and maybe even to what she had looked like the first moment he knew he was in love with her…
After a few beautiful and not completely tearless moments, I quickly stepped in to try and discourage the tears (and no, not because crying makes me feel weird), but I knew we still had a short photo session coming right up and I didn’t want her makeup to run or her eyes to get red & puffy. (See how thoughtful I am? ) Otherwise I would be standing there getting all teary myself between shots.
Isn’t this couple just gorgeous?!
We spent about 15-20 minutes photographing Bethany & Jim at the beautifully decorated Hotel. I supposed this is summing it up lightly, the hotel was in fact impressively decked out with massive amounts of Holiday and Christmas decor at every turn. And as I know they were eagerly looking forward to some time alone over a great meal, I bid them both farewell and wished them a wonderful dinner & evening at Raspberries. After almost 7 hours, my time with Bethany ended. It was a wrap.
I enjoyed every minute of this day immensely. To witness the generousity and focus of so many people coming together to acknowledge an amazing and deserving Mom just for being a great Mom… How awesome is that? And the best part was just getting to know Bethany and her Family. Had Destiny shook up the dice with different results, I could see how in a another life we could have easily become fast friends, sharing stories, eating good food and enjoying some wine while the kids played Just Dance 2 and we laughed till our stomachs hurt as our Husbands were coerced into a dance off with the kids…
I hope Bethany and her Family long savour the memories and take pride in the fact that Bethany is such an awesome Mom, Wife, Teacher & Person and that she got a day dedicated to her to let her know how much she is appreciated.
This post took me way longer than I care to admit to flesh together (approx 2 weeks to be exact). But it is one of the few special stories that really took hold of me this past Holiday Season, and changed the way I think about life and family. It has been over a month but I still, on a daily basis, think about Bethany and her Family. I wonder how her chemotherapy is going and, as unpleasant as it must be, I am glad she is able to get that treatment, because that means there is real hope for a happy ending. And I imagine multiple versions of happy endings for their Family, with almost all versions including a huge sigh of relief.
For more photos from this day click on the thumbnails below!
To view more of this story, please check out the article in Central Penn Parent’s January 2011 Edition covering the story of Bethany’s Mom’s Makeover Day!
(Thanks to everyone at Central Penn Parent including Nikki Murry for editing the story in the Magazine, Tara Peffley for organizing & executing the day & Anna Siewert for recommending me as a sponsor. Thanks to all the amazing sponsors including Debbie Fasnacht of Elements Therapeutic Massage, Kathy Cadieux & the Stylists at Creative Elegance Boutique, Kristin Benkovic of Vixen Salon 717-972-0523, Tracy Salinger-Long & Kathy of Unique Limousine as well as Harrisburg Hilton Raspberries. Thanks to Bethany Hovan and her Family Members for being such awesome sports and her Family & Friends for submitting the entries that got her crowned as Central Penn Parent’s 1st Mom’s Makeover Winner!)