CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - A Heartland photographer highlighted children’s personal triumphs during a unique photo shoot in Cape Girardeau.
Ashley Irey of Lauren Ashley Photography wanted to be a little creative with her young clients as she took photos of them dressed up in formal wear with their sports gear attire on as well.
"They're more than just makeup and they're more than just a pretty dress," Irey said. "They could go out and do sports or just anything they wanted. There are no limits for them as long as they wanted to do it."
Irey got the idea from another photographer in the southern part of the United States that had a similar shoot. She said she wanted to offer these unique sessions to her clients with her own twist.
The shoots became more than just pictures for some, including her daughter Lily.
Irey realized this photo shoot has highlighted her own daughter’s triumphs she has endured having some temporary physical limitations.
Lily Conrad was diagnosed with scoliosis at an early age which has given her some physical barriers to overcome in life.
"In 2017, it got to the point where I had to have surgery," Conrad said. "The surgery was a newer procedure called 'the staple'. They put multiple staples in my back."
Conrad plays softball and soccer but had to sit aside after that initial procedure.
"The first thing I asked the doctor was, 'Will I still be able to play sports?'" Conrad stated.
The photo shoot was an opportunity for Lily to show who she was and how strong she mentally is, even while going though her personal life struggles before and after a surgery.
"The photo shoot, I wore a bracelet that said 'Battle'," Conrad added. "More of the dress and the soccer ball were to show your different personality traits."
Unfortunately for Conrad, she recently found out she will have to have a second, more in-depth surgery on her back where they will fuse her vertebrae together.
"I feel like after the next surgery, then I'm going to have to do it all again and it's just going to be a long road of recovery," Conrad continued.
"You worry for your kid. Are they going to get into a slump with things in life," Irey added. "With the placement of rods in her back, she had to wait about 6 weeks. This time it's going to be about 6 months before she can get back in the game."
Irey said she is confident that her daughter will get back on her feet and out on the field as fast as possible.
"She doesn't like wearing the brace and she doesn't like surgery, but when it comes to going outside and doing the things she loves, I've never seen her, 'I can't. I don't want to do this or this makes me sad.' She is the toughest kid. She really is and she is a tiny person, very petite,” Irey said.
Conrad wasn’t the only one in the unique photo shoot that showed their confidence and personality. Irey said some of the kids even told her some of the issues they are overcoming themselves.
"There were some of them that came in and shared their back story with me," Irey explained. "One little girl has had issues finding her confidence in school, but when she gets on the field, she finds that confidence. So again, so much more than a pretty face and so much more than a dress."
Katie Sands brought her daughter Lyla for some unique photos as well. They moved to the Jackson area from Illinois about four years ago. The school change was more of a social challenge than they originally thought.
"Some people that you try to make friends with, they would just betray you," Lyla Sands said.
Katie added that she too faced a similar path when she was younger but she engaged in sports which said helped her out.
Lyla then found volleyball as a sport that she could focus on and create some bonds with others.
"It helps build friendships because you're with people that you're going to be with for a while," Lyla Sands said. "It just helps build your friendship with other people."
Katie said that's why she wanted her daughter to be part of this photo shoot.
"Sometimes people have this image that you are this way or that way when you play a certain sport," Katie Sands said. "I wanted to help break that stereotype and show that they can be feminine and rough at the same time."
Lyla said she loves volleyball and has excelled on the court which has led to other adventures with her team.
"She made a travel team this year so that definitely helped build up her confidence, helps with teamwork, socialization, friendships, as well as, building up her own self-esteem better," Katie Sands added.
Both Lyla Sands and Conrad said they feel this was a great opportunity to show who they really are.
"Have the passion and have the desire to do what you want," Conrad said. "There's always going to be huge obstacles in life and if you overcome them then you're just filled with greatness and happiness and you just feel like you've taken over the world."
Katie said she knows her daughter is capable of anything if she puts her mind to it.
“I can be whoever I want to be,” Lyla Sands said. “What others think of me is not the same as what I think of myself and what I see of myself.”