Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Inspirational Tips: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

What do you get when animal lovers come together to raise money for the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade? One of the most magnificent books I’ve ever seen.

The 2009 Paws for Charity Art Book, an incredible compilation of artwork and photographs submitted by thirty-seven artists from the US, UK and Canada, was brought to life by the talented, driven and creative Sara Harley.

At the age of twenty-one, Sara lost her mother to breast cancer. She has had two scares herself, the most recent in August; both times lumps were removed and thankfully they were both benign. So, it’s not surprising that in 2006, Sara and three other women who owned dog businesses and wanted to raise money for breast cancer charity founded Paws For Charity which is not a charitable organization.

Paws For Charity was created because 3 of the 4 founders, myself, Julie from Chilly Dogs, and Char from Around The Hounds were all selling products to raise funds for breast cancer,” said Sara. “We thought that creating a group would have more impact and raise more awareness. The fourth founder, Sue, the Urban Dog Photog, looked after all our photography needs. She took the photos for my "Crunch for a Cure" dog biscuit packages using breast cancer survivors and their dogs, and also created some fund raising calendars.”

Then, in 2008, Sara sold her dog biscuit company and decided to focus some of her time on Paws For Charity. Last Christmas, when Sara gave out a couple of photo books as gifts, she thought a photo book might be a good idea for a fundraiser. While working with the three other women in 2006, Sara had discovered that there is a great synergy created when several people work on one project. So, she went to work from her home in rural Nova Scotia, and sent out invitations to artists and photographers she found through various searches. During her search phase, she discovered the "Photographers of Etsy" blog, and sent an email to one of the blog administrators. Gigi Leonard was enthusiastic, and had someone write up an article about the project to invite POE members to send in submissions.

One of the people who saw the Photographers of Etsy post and immediately responded was our very own Thursday Sweet Treat participant and fantastic photographer, Michelle Ciarlo-Hayes, creator of mkc photography.

“They mentioned Sara was seeking submissions of visual art that featured dogs and cats,” remembers Michelle. “We artists would donate our work, and Sara would do all the hard work of actually putting the book together, lol! I was so moved by the fact that she lost her mom at such an early age to breast cancer: I lost one cousin to this disease and watched two aunts battle back into remission...we are all affected, in some way, by breast cancer. Sara has given us a way to raise awareness - and funds - in a positive, uplifting, endearing way.”

Right away, Michelle thought of two portraits she’d taken of her dogs: one of her sweet old dog's grey-whiskered nose, and the second of her crazy young dog's sandy paws captured during a winter walk at the beach. Michelle was over the moon when Sara chose the latter photo to be the cover of the book.

“Originally, I had planned to create a cover image using snippets from all of the submissions in the book. But when I received Michelle's photograph "Sandy Paws", I knew it would be a perfect photo image for our "Paws for Charity" Art Book,” said Sara.

One of the greatest challenges Sara faced when putting the book together was choosing what to include. In an effort to create a balanced book, she chose photographs and artwork of dogs and cats as well as scenic images and portraits.

“The range of images Sara has chosen are perfect,” said Michelle. “Some make us laugh, some are thoughtful, some are truly endearing. I think she's done a masterful job of compiling 37 viewpoints into one sweet book.”

"Vanessa and Be" by Cameron Graves Hayden.
Cameron is in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A full profile of Cameron is here:

“I found Cameron's web site online, and when I invited her to participate, I asked her about her painting "Vanessa and Be". I was quite drawn to this painting, and although it doesn't have a dog or cat in the painting I wanted to include it,” said Sara. “When I mentioned this painting to Cameron, she told me Vanessa was diagnosed with breast cancer over two years ago. This is the first image in our book. This is the story of "Be", written by Vanessa:

I have a bear. His name is 'Be'. I received Be when I was first diagnosed with cancer two and a half years ago. Be has provided me with great comfort and strength ever since. I named him Be to represent everything I want to be... be happy, be healthy, be loving, be generous. Whenever I feel upset, angry or sad, I look to Be to remind me of everything positive in the world and everything I want to be; ultimately Be represents love. Be also reminds me to live in the moment, to Be. I don't know how much longer I have in this life but every moment will count and will be cherished. Be is my constant companion. He comes with me to all of my chemo appointments, anytime I am in the hospital and of course to bed with me. If I ever wake up in the middle of the night, his sweet, comforting face is there to greet me. Be also represents the love I have in my heart for those I cherish most. Bears know where their hearts are and will always remind you of where yours is.

Over the course of the next few months, Sara will be featuring each artist and their image on the Paws For Charity blog. Please visit http://pawsforcharity.blogspot.com/ to meet reading inspiring stories about these artists.

"The Passage", by Kelly Snelling. Kelly's full profile is here:

“Kelly has just celebrated a wonderful anniversary...two years of being free from breast cancer,” said Sara. “In her own words, "Cancer is an upside down blessing in that I surely have learned to value what I have instead of feeling as if I were missing out on anything...ever."”

Does this book not touch the very core of you? I think it is positively incredible. I think everyone should have a copy or give a copy to someone special in their life. And just think, your purchase not only brightens someone life, it helps to support early detection, treatment, and research for a cure. Just think about how many people you are helping with one book! Could there be anything better?

For a preview or to purchase the book, please visit:

For more information about the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, please visit:

For truly wonderful, inspiring reading and a place to leave a little love, please visit:
Sara Harley

Dream Big blog: http://sharleystudio.blogspot.com/

Paws for Charity blog: http://pawsforcharity.blogspot.com/

To celebrate and congratulate Michelle, please visit:

I am so honored to have been able to feature this book here. Thank you Sara, Michelle and all the artists involved for creating such a beautiful book that gives back so much to everyone!

To all who are reading, I urge you to pass this on and on and on or blog about it. This is such an unforgettable project for such an important cause! Share, share, share, you never know who you might help!


Phoenyx Ravenswing said...


What an awesome post! :-) I was esp. moved by the story of the lady and her bear, Be. I know that when I was in hospital several years ago, my stuffies, esp. the two that were bought for me by my chosen-family, were extremely important and comforting to me. :-)
And the reason why she named him 'Be' is just so inspiring - what a wonderful attitude to take! :-) I was just reminded last night of the importance of talismans to help you stay in a chosen place - what a wonderful reminder here! :-)

How awesome too that some of our own are in this magnificent book!!!

Bright Blessings & Good Fortune! :-)

Michelle (mkc photography) said...

Natasha, we are all so honored that you're featuring this book in your wonderful blog! Thank you SO much for helping "Paws for Charity" and the millions of women world-wide that the funds will benefit.

Allie said...

What a wonderful feature! Such incredible talent - for such a worthy cause!

twinklescrapbooks said...

It looks like a great book! And definitely a great cause!
:) tina

Sara said...

Thanks so much for featuring our book, and for such a lovely post!

Natasha said...

Phoenyx Ravenswing - I am in complete agreement with you ...Be was completely inspiring. It is wonderful to know that your "stuffies" brought you peace when you needed them most. And I love celebrating Michelle and all the talented artists who made this possible..what a fabulous cause to support and a splendid way to do it!

Michelle - thank YOU for being a part of such an incredible project. A BIG congrats on having that gorgeous "Sandy Paws" photo on the cover of the book...I'm so honored to have it featured here.

Allie - hello there, how are you? Great to see you ..thanks so much for being here and yes I am in agreement ... it's a brilliant assembling of talent for such an important cause..without a doubt!

twinklescrapbooks - so awesome to see you here again...how are you?? Yes, it's an amazing book...

Sara, Sara, Sara...thank YOU for bringing your idea to life is such a magnificent way. The way you assembled these talented artists and featured people's work is fabulous not to mention it's for such an incredibly special cause...I am so deeply inspired by you...thank you for giving this gift to the world!!

Felicia Kramer said...

Congratulations, Michelle, for being a "cover girl!" That's fantastic - and all for a great cause too.

Jenjen © GottaLoveMom said...

Kudos to Michelle for doing what she loves and making a big difference at the same time!

Natasha, you're super amazing. You share so much of your love and talent.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Natasha said...

Felicia - I love that you used the phrase "cover girl" ...Michelle, the cover girl I love it!! YAY!!

Jenjen - thank you very much...I love the way you put that...Michelle is doing what she loves and making a difference...is there anything better than that? Thank you for cheering!

lisianblue said...

It is often truly amazing what people come up with when they "conspire" with others............and this is an awesome project.
And Congrats to Michelle for Sandy Paws on the cover! How cool!
and Natasha - how generous and awe inspiring you are for all you do!

Natasha said...

lisianblue - hey thank you ...that was so sweet...I am in awe of these folks...I love that they made a great, creative product for a supremely important cause...they all rock...so do you :)

Jennifer said...

Thanks for featuring this project on your blog!

Natasha said...

Jennifer...it was my pleasure....I just think its such a fabulos idea..thank you for coming by and commenting...it's great to see you here :)