On Sunday, January 7, 2018, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association celebrated its 75th Golden Globes 75th. Scores of Hollywood luminaries walked the red carpet to the International Ballroom, past rows of photographers representing almost every print, TV and digital outlet in the world. Among the veteran professionals, there was also be a 10-year-old photographer, who only picked up a camera a year ago. Her name is Francine Gascon. She is good at what she does. She is a Pablove Shutterbug.
The Pablove Foundation, a Hollywood Foreign Press Association grantee, is a non-profit that helps children with cancer to lead as normal a life as possible while often undergoing painful chemotherapy.
Two music industry veterans, Jo Ann Thrailkill and Jeff Castelaz founded Pablove, after their son, Pablo, died of a rare form of childhood cancer, at age six. Pablo's love of photography and the comfort it gave him were the inspiration for what is now the Shutterbug program which gives kids with cancer cameras and photo instruction. The HFPA, which has donated some $30 million so far to various entertainment oriented charities and institutions, has been partnering with the Pablove Foundation for seven years now.
Shutterbug Francine's family is from the Philippines, and she was born in the Mariana Islands. She has two older sisters, one living with the family in Los Angeles, and the other serving in the Army in Hawaii.
A bubbly and active 5th-grade student, ("I like all subjects, but I'm bad at math," she says), Francine is drawn to entertainment, sings Korean pop tunes, dances, and likes to watch movies - " Steven Spielberg is my favorite director", she says (not bad for a 10-year-old).
Last year she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and immediately put into treatment. Two rounds of chemotherapy are about done, and she has six months of chemo left, while back at school.
It was while Francine was in the hospital at a chemo treatment that Raul Lorenzana, Pablove's program manager, met her and told her family about the Shutterbug program: Volunteer instructors are paired with the young Shutterbugs, and teach them one on one, at home or in the hospital if needed, and also at a week-long photo workshop held in a summer camp. It is an enriching experience not just for the children, but for the adult mentors too. "Visiting a child with a serious illness in a hospital was at first terrifying," said one volunteer. "Their energy level is unpredictable. They might shoot three photos or 80. They may be sensitive to light and can only shoot indoors or in the dark. But they don't give up. And that courage has rubbed off on me."
The HFPA does more with the Pablove Foundation than just award it a grant. The HFPA also invites a Shutterbug to photograph at two events each year: the Grants Banquet in August and the Golden Globe Awards in January. Last Sunday's Shutterbug, Francine, had never photographed a celebrity before. Her favorite television show is Stranger Things, and to her delight, David Harbour, who plays Police Chief Jim Hopper, was a nominee in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Television Series category.