What Makes On Angels’ Wings Different

By Michelle L. Cramer, Founder & Executive Director

There are other child bereavement photography services out there, but we stand out in a few ways. On Angels’ Wings is by no means competing with these other organizations. Our intention is to fill the gaps, whether that’s as a backup when other services aren’t available for an individual need; or through the extension of the services we provide; or through offering services in unserved areas.

That said, there are ways that we are different from any other organization in the nation that we’ve come across so far.

Expansive List of Qualifiers

We are aware of a national service that provides photography exclusively for birth loss. Another provides photography only for children in the NICU. There is nothing wrong with a niche focus and we respect that – these are both quality services.

When I started this organization, however, I wanted to expand the service provided to include any child whose medical diagnosis puts their life at risk (see our Qualifiers here). Because those parents live every day desperately trying to celebrate every moment, hoping it won’t be their child’s last. It felt imperative to capture as much of that successful journey as possible, as well as the last moments when necessary.

OAW’s services include what we call Journey Sessions, as well as emergent and loss sessions.

Multiple Session Options

While most every other service we’ve come across in our research is limited to one session per family, our services are not a one-and-done platform. Children still fighting their diagnosis become our journey recipients and are eligible for a free annual photo session from On Angels’ Wings, as well as sessions prior to a major surgery if desired.

Our NICU journey sessions (once hospitals open up again) allow for several milestone sessions for children born at 32 weeks gestation or earlier. That means we’ll provide a session when they are born, when they finally get to be held and fed by parents, and a celebration session when they get to go home.

Recipient families who suffer a loss and choose to have a rainbow baby, or journey families who provide their medically fragile child with a sibling (what we call a sunshine baby) also qualify for free maternity and newborn pictures for that first subsequent pregnancy.

We offer these multiple sessions opportunities because these families go through ongoing circumstances battling a mix of emotions: joy, trepidation, fear, sadness. We want to give them the opportunity to at least have a brief window of time to fully embrace the positive feelings of joy and celebration along their journey.

Services Beyond Photos

Support is a vital part of OAW’s mission. When I started On Angels’ Wings, my experience to that point had been with organizations that provided one set of photos to the families and then the connection was typically severed. My heart couldn’t take it. It was imperative to me upon founding OAW that the program focus on providing ongoing support services for our recipient families. We journey with them from the moment we connect to plan a photo shoot until… well… forever.

As part of those support services, and in an effort to make sure families know they are not alone, recipients who suffer the loss of their child receive initial memorial gifts from us beyond photos within six months of their loss, and then again at the anniversary of their loss for at least three consecutive years. Children that are still fighting receive at least a birthday card from OAW each year.

We also provide a number of events and gatherings for our recipients to participate in with the purpose of helping them develop comradery and relationships with each other. At this time, we offer holiday mini sessions in St. Louis and Springfield each fall. We also offer rainbow baby mini sessions and playdate gathering in Springfield each spring, and our annual Making Memories Day carnival each summer. We’ve done OAW Cards night at Hammons Field and have some other fun activities in the works, ever expanding how we bring these families together. All of our events are free for previous and current OAW recipients.

Training in Grief Recovery

Taking that support aspect to the next level, our Support Coordinator Michelle Slavens and I went through training in June 2020 to become Advanced Certified Grief Recovery Method Specialists through the Grief Recovery Institute. Providing a dedicated program to help our families process loss and grief associated with their child’s diagnosis has long been a goal and we are excited to finally see it come to fruition. Our first 8-week grief group launched in Springfield in September 2021 with 11 participants. We plan to offer several group and individual sessions on a regular basis.

Always Seeking More

It is our goal through On Angels’ Wings to always seek out ways to serve our recipients and communities better. When I launched this organization in July 2013, I had expectations to serve the Springfield, Mo. community with bereavement photography services that were lacking. With time, the vision for the organization grew, and the organization has honestly grown beyond my vision in some respects. OAW opened its first ever location in September 2021 to provide a private, peaceful and safe space for grief recovery groups to meet and our volunteer photographers to provide indoor sessions in our studio space as needed.

I’m excited to see how we continue to expand the services we provide both for the communities we are already in, and into new communities within our state and beyond. Yeah, the vision has grown a bit. I’m proud of all the things we do that make On Angels’ Wings different as a stand-out, one-of-a-kind service.

Share This