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Updated: Jun 6, 2019

I don't offer family sessions as part of my services, but once in a while I provide them through a fundraiser or giveaway. For Mother's Day this year, I decided to give away a free family session. The only entry prerequisite? Comment on why you love your family.

I was simply blown away by the number of responses (over 200) and the amazing stories. There were stories that brought me to tears—both of the happy and sad variety. One that hit particularly close to home was the story of the Shank family, where Stewart and Sara opened their doors—and their hearts—to foster kids. That itself is such an amazing thing to do to, but they didn’t stop there. They went on to adopt two brothers, Dayshawn and Michael.

I don't talk about my personal story much, but maybe I should because it has forever shaped me. If you don't know by now, my last name DeWaard doesn't exactly match my appearance. ☺ I was adopted on my 4th birthday from an orphanage in South Korea and welcomed into a small Dutch family in Lynden, Washington. They already had two kids of their own and a few years previous to me, adopted a baby girl from South Korea. Adoption changed my life and I’m thankful that God placed me right where I was supposed to be. And I’m forever grateful to my adoptive parents for giving me a gift that I will never be able to fully repay.

So, in reading the Shank family's response to my post, it brought back so many emotions for me and hit me right in the gut. I knew this was a family I wanted to get to know and capture through photography. Throughout the entire session I was moved to goosebumps. They displayed so perfectly a word that should never be taken for granted. Love.

I've always believed that family is not always the one you are born into; it's the one that raises and loves you. This family exemplifies pure love and these brothers—Dayshawn and Michael—are exactly where they are supposed to be.

Follow the Shank Family's journey on instagram: @cozyd

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