Coffee and Change

In my Photojournalism Capstone at Ball State, I had an assignment to photograph something positive happening in the community 3-miles from our door. This is an approximation, of course. Being someone who loves volunteering and is incredibly community orientated, a few ideas crossed my mind.

I reached out to an old friend, Kelsey Timmerman. I had previously worked as an intern for The Facing Project with him and co-founder J.R. Jamison. Anyways, Kelsey got back with me a few days later with a contact with someone he shares an office with. Kelsey mentioned that this man, Brad Daugherty, had a son with brain cancer. With this being the case, the family often sees gracious and overwhelming love from the community.

Initially, this was the reason I reached out to Brad: to document the community and kindness his family sees. But nothing ever goes according to plan, now does it?


Photo by Erin Gillum

Photo by Erin Gillum

When I met Brad for coffee on February 7th, 2019, I had no idea how my life would be changed. We spoke for over two hours about his story, my story, his life and Christian. I brought the idea of photographing his family’s moments — the good and the bad.

As the last grains settled into our coffee, Brad explained that he almost cancelled the meeting because of the new they had learned that day. The oncologist had called to tell the family that Christian’s cancer fought the medicine, once again, and he now had a total of five tumors in his brain cavity. I cried with a stranger for a child I had never met.

It was then that Brad told me Christian and his twin sister, Grace, would be celebrating their birthday together the following Sunday, February 10th. It was then that I realized I would forever be connected to this family: I was going to document this young boy’s moments of love, laughter and happiness around this family of six.

I didn’t make this choice, I didn’t make this decision, I just knew it was where I was meant to be.

Sometimes life chooses you because it sees you as a candidate, it sees you as someone who can make a difference, and it sees you as an influence in this world. I believe Christian is this person, and I am meant to tell his story.

Read more about Christian and our stories intertwining here.