It was 1997 when Deneen and her husband, Steve, found out that their daughter was born with a liver disease called "biliary atresia". They lived in Dublin, Ireland at the time, and headed to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN when they found out her diagnosis. While there, Deneen, her husband, and their 1 year old son stayed at the local Ronald McDonald House while their daughter, Christina, underwent several surgeries to repair her liver. In March of 1998, Deneen underwent surgery to donate part of her own liver to her daughter for a living related donor transplant. It was just over a month later that they lost Christina due to complications following her transplant. She was 5 months and 22 days old at the time of her death.
During their lengthy stay in the hospital, a local professional photographer offered a free session to Deneen's family in the hospital. It was the generosity of that photographer, and the photos her own family captured while Christina was in the hospital, that would inspire Deneen to take up photography specifically to provide to children's hospitals many years later. Nothing will ever replace the photos they now have to remember Christina daily.
In 2010, Deneen began volunteering at her local Ronald McDonald House upon a move to North Carolina. Through the donation of professional photography, Deneen spent hours every week in several units of Brenner Children's Hospital in Winston Salem, NC, but she spent the majority of her time in the NICU there, tracking the progress of each baby's growth from week to week for the families. Always free of charge to the families. In 2013, Deneen opened up her photography program to hospitals in several other states and Capturing Hopes Photography was born. In 2016, Deneen also piloted a bereavement photography program for hospitals when she saw the lack of photographer availability in labor/deliver and NICU units during the loss of an infant. The "Little Lights Program" is running successfully in North Carolina, with hopes to expand in the future.
Deneen has been voted as Glamour Magazine's Women of the Year for her volunteer work in North Carolina, and has been interviewed by news media all over the world. She has had the opportunity to share her own story of loss and coming full circle in her own story with many groups of people over the years. Deneen is a mom first, but has dedicated her life to what she is most passionate about, children's hospital photography.
To contact Deneen about her story or for a public speaking engagement, you can reach her at email@example.com
Deneen and her husband reside in Clemmons, NC and have six living children, a daughter in law, and will welcome their first grandbaby in June of 2020. Her children range in age from 12 to 23 years old, with three of them currently in college. Andrew (23) is married to Samantha and he is pursuing a degree in business. Nichole (20) lives near the beach in Wilmington, NC where she is pursuing a degree in elementary education. Quinn (19) lives in Greensboro, NC and is pursuing a degree in Psychology. Hunter (17), Blake (14), and Emma (12) are living at home, but spend a lot of their time with friends or traveling for soccer. To honor their sister/daughter, the entire family gather together each year at the Ronald McDonald House for Thanksgiving Day to host the meal for the House, as well as two local children's hospitals.