Can you give a hug without touching a person? A parade that I attended to photograph this past Sunday, May 3, 2020 proved it possible when first responders and participants from every corner of Beaver County descended on the Borough of Beaver. The parade was organized by the motorcycle enthusiast group Charity Riders, Inc., a Beaver County based non-profit started in 2006 with a singular goal – help families with sick or disabled children. Since being granted 501(c)3 status in 2010, they have helped over forty families.
This group and their cause really resonated with me due to my non profit, Dreaming of Three, where we help families with children with life threatening diseases. So when I heard about the parade for 12-year old Giana Berardi of Beaver, a beautiful soul born ten weeks premature , I wanted to volunteer my time to capture her special moment.
Giana was born with a rare brain disorder called Lissencephaly, where most or parts of the brain appear smooth affecting many different facets of growth. Giana is currently in hospice care but the family was able to bring her outside to see the parade and the outpouring of love and support for her and her family during this difficult time.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Giana and her family and anyone that can is asked to contribute here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/prayers-for-giana . The effort has raised almost $9,000 and been shared nearly 4,000 times.
From Beaver County Events:
Beaver County Events spoke to a representative for the Charity Riders, Eric “Mayhem” Smith, who stated that they have become very close to the family while “watching her beat every obstacle for nine years.” Social distancing due to the current COVID-19 pandemic has kept them from visiting the family, who had said that it would be nice at times to share “a hug.” It was at this time that Smith knew they needed to do something. “We decided we had to put a smile on her face, he said.
The Charity Riders began to organize a ride with the blessing of the family. Participation from the first responder community and others began to pour in. The “local support has been overwhelming and it pulls on your heart” to know how many want to help, according to Smith. Word started to spread on social media and the ride has quickly grown into a parade requiring a lot of coordination. When asked about the response, Smith remarked about seeing “the goodness of people in such a hard time as we are in,” with many participating simply to let the family know “you are not alone.”
It was amazing to sit across from the family as the "parade" rolled through. I have to admit, my own eyes welled up with tears, to the point it was difficult for me to look through my camera to photograph seeing all the support for this family. It truly was amazing how a community can come together to give a "hug" to a family in such a time. It was an amazing thing to witness.
As you look through the photos, you can certainly see how it touched the family members and all the participants.
At the end of the parade, all I could think about was that although America is in the middle of the pandemic, communities are certainly coming together to support each other during these times. It truly warms my heart and gives me so much hope.
You can view more of the images from the parade by clicking the album below: