Erika Franta, a professional photographer with a serious passion for spreading Down syndrome awareness, decided to put her talents to good use by setting up a photo shoot for the annual Down Syndrome Association Calendar. She told POPSUGAR that even though she loves to volunteer, she was the one who learned a lesson after spending the afternoon with Joey and Ellie, two 7-year-olds with Down syndrome.
"My hope as a photographer, first and foremost, has always been to take photos that really matter. I try to never take more than I give," she said. "So working with these kids is my opportunity to use my passion to give back. Although I could argue that they give me much more than I could ever give them."
And while she was originally hoping to capture a few gorgeous shots of little Joey solo, he was determined to bring his girlfriend, Ellie, along for the ride.
"[The calendar] ultimately helps raise money for programs that benefit children with Down syndrome and their families," she explained. "Joey was insistent that his girlfriend Ellie also be included in his photo shoot."
And thank God she was because the photos of them together are seriously giving us life.
Even though Erika can't stop herself from flipping through the photos over and over again, she hopes the project will take on an even deeper meaning. "I hope the photos convey acceptance, education, and compassion. I hope others choose to see the good and to love a little more selflessly as Ellie and Joey do. While our abilities may differ, our hearts are all the same."