For families with children who have special needs, there's so much more to their lives than what appears on the surface.
That's why 32 families and 26 photographers (primarily photography students from the College of DuPage) joined in a quest to show the smiles, laughter and simple joys of life beyond-and despite-any disabilities.
"You see the child, you see the individual. You don't see the disability," says Beth Spenadel, the mom of one of the kids featured in a photo exhibition that now hangs in the lobby of the Easter Seals of DuPage and the Fox Valley Region.
The kids are tomorrow's citizens, says Ellie Cummings, director of public relations.
"Experiencing the exhibit provides people the opportunities to ask questions about the challenges they see," she says. "It's just sharing."
Each child's essence, captured as 24-inch by 36-inch images for the seventh annual exhibition Quest for Independence, can be viewed until October at 830 S. Addison Ave., Villa Park.
1. John and Lilia, who's known as Giggles, are twins. Lilia loves dolls and stuffed animals, John loves dogs, cars and chasing birds in the backyard. Photo by Amanda Grabenhofer.
2. Max was born with cerebral palsy due to a stroke in utero. At 3½ years old, after years of working with physical, occupational and speech therapists, and four days before Mother's Day, Max said "Mommy." Photo by Marita Blanken.
3. Sarah faces challenges with hypotonia (low muscle tone). She is determined and motivated in everything she does, enjoying some of her happiest moments in ring during her horse therapy afternoons and going to school with her big brother, Jack. Photo by Sonny Kochar.
4. Jack, Madelyn and Max, born at 27 weeks at just 2 pounds each, have faced enormous odds, including cerebral palsy, hearing losses and asthma. Madelyn loves to dance, Jack loves to curl up with a book and Max loves dinosaurs. Photo by Nancy O'Sullivan.
5. Ninah spent the first eight months of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit at University of Chicago Hospital after being born exposed to illegal drugs. Despite sensory processing challenges, she loves riding her tricycle and hates having her hair done. Photo by Brian Powers.
6. Janna, who treasures her five cats, is a determined Special Olympics gymnast. She has Moebius syndrome, a rare neurological diagnosis that causes facial paralysis. Photo by Joel Lamplough.
7. Emily fills her days with reading books, playing with friends and riding her bike. She loves princesses and dancing. Photo by Mary Sevier.