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7 astounding photos this mom took to prove beauty is in everyone.

Beauty doesn't always come in a 'perfect' package.

7 astounding photos this mom took to prove beauty is in everyone.

When Maryland photographer Stephanie Smith arrived in Milwaukee to photograph Charlie, a little boy in hospice, she didn't know what to expect.

She had already photographed 16 children living with health issues and disabilities but never one who lived day-to-day with oxygen and a feeding tube. However, all it took was a few moments with Charlie for her to completely fall in love.


Charlie with Stephanie. Image provided by Stephanie Smith.

"I looked at him and touched his sweet face and just broke down," Smith said.

Charlie has a neurological impairment called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which means his brain is deprived of an adequate oxygen supply. He has survived longer than his doctors expected, and while it's difficult for him to show emotion, that didn't stop Smith from forming a deep connection with him.

And it's the same with all the kids she photographs.

In early 2016, Smith began her journey of photographing kids with disorders, disabilities, and differences, thanks to a mom whose child has autism.

All images by Stephanie L. Smith Photography, used with permission.

The girl's mom had scheduled a photo shoot for her daughter with a professional photographer, but the photographer canceled the shoot when he found out the little girl had autism, saying that she was not his "ideal client."

At that moment, Smith knew she had to do something to right this wrong.

Smith has firsthand experience of what life is like with a loved one who has an illness and disability.

Her sister Melissa fought and beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma twice before developing transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disease that left her paralyzed from the chest down.

Thanks to a $400,000 grant from Chive's Charities, however, Melissa is now living an almost completely independent life.

That incredible generosity inspired Smith to move ahead with her plan to give back, a project she called Lenses for Love.

Lenses for Love is an ongoing project in which Smith donates photoshoots to families of children with disabilities, disorders, and health conditions.

Smith knows that it isn't easy for families to afford things like photo shoots when they're already financial strained by medical bills, but that's only one reason she's offering her services free of charge.

The other reason is to help change the stigma that can surround people with disabilities and differences.

"I want to open up that dialogue, get rid of that fear, and change what our society says is beautiful," Smith says.

When Smith put out word about Lenses for Love on Facebook, she was immediately flooded with responses from parents.

Her offer was answering a need that many, many families of disabled children have — for their child to be looked at just like every other cute kid.

Smith is only one woman (who also has a son and works full time as an office manager), so she's only been able to give photo shoots to three families a month. She's on a mission to change that.

"I want to build a platform for other photographers who will step up and donate their time and services to these families," she said.

She's currently working to expand her page and make it more of a crowdsourcing site where photographers from around the country can volunteer their services too.

Smith's photos are truly wonderful, but she wants the attention to remain on the kids she photographs.

Smith says no matter their struggles, they're all strong, resilient, happy kids who inspire her every day — and that goes double for their parents.

She's built lasting relationships with all the families and refers to them as "my family." They are incredibly supportive, she said, and are just thrilled their kids can have these photographic experiences.

At the end of the day, parents just want photos that treat their kids the same as any other, taken by a photographer who can make them feel comfortable. And that's exactly what Smith does.

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Often, parents of children with special needs struggle to find Halloween costumes that will accommodate medical equipment or provide a proper fit. And figuring out how to make one? Yikes.

There's good news; shopDisney has added new ensembles to their already impressive line of adaptive play costumes. And from 8/30 - 9/26, there's a 20% off sale for all costume and costume accessory orders of $75+ with code Spooky.

When looking for the right costume, kids with unique needs have a lot of extra factors to consider: wheelchair wheels get tangled up in too-long material, feeding tubes could get twisted the wrong way, and children with sensory processing disorders struggle with the wrong kind of fabric, seams, or tags. There are a lot of different obstacles that can come between a kid and the ability to wear the costume of their choice, which is why it's so awesome that more and more companies are recognizing the need for inclusive creations that make it easy for everyone to enjoy the magic of make-believe.

Created with inclusivity in mind, the adaptive line is designed to discreetly accommodate tubes or wires from the front or the back, with lots of stretch, extra length and roomier cut, and self-stick fabric closures to make getting dressed hassle-free. The online shop provides details on sizing and breaks down the magical elements of each outfit and accessory, taking the guesswork out of selecting the perfect costume for the whole family.

Your child will be able to defeat Emperor Zurg in comfort with the Buzz Lightyear costume featuring a discreet flap opening at the front for easy tube access, with self-stick fabric closure. There is also an opening at the rear for wheelchair-friendly wear, and longer-length inseams to accommodate seated guests. To infinity and beyond!

An added bonus: many of the costumes offer a coordinating wheelchair cover set to add a major boost of fun. Kids can give their ride a total makeover—all covers are made to fit standard size chairs with 24" wheels—to transform it into anything from The Mandalorian's Razor Crest ship to Cinderella's Coach. Some options even come equipped with sounds and lights!

From babies to adults and adaptive to the group, shopDisney's expansive variety of Halloween costumes and accessories are inclusive of all.

Don't forget about your furry companions! Everyone loves to see a costumed pet trotting around, regardless of the occasion. You can literally dress your four-legged friend to look like Sven from Frozen, which might not sound like something you need in your life but...you totally do. CUTENESS OVERLOAD.

This year has been tough for everyone, so when a child gets that look of unfettered joy that comes from finally getting to wear the costume of their dreams, it's extra rewarding. Don't wait until the last minute to start looking for the right ensemble!


*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through affiliate links on our site.

Yamiche Alcindor/Twitter, U.S. Department of State

It takes a lot to push a career diplomat to quit their job. A diplomat's specialty, after all, is diplomacy—managing relationships between people and governments, usually with negotiation and compromise.

So when the U.S. special envoy to Haiti, whose "diplomatic experience and demonstrated interagency leadership have been honed directing several of the United States government's largest overseas programs in some of the world's most challenging, high-threat environments," decides to resign effective immediately, it means something.

Daniel Foote, who was appointed special envoy to Haiti in July of this year, explained his decision to quit in a strongly-worded letter to Secretary of State Blinken. His resignation comes in the wake of a wave of Haitian migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border and widespread reports of harsh treatment and deportations.

"I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life," he wrote. "Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own."

Foote went on to describe the dire conditions in Haiti:

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