Pictures of cheer: Young photographers aim to brighten days of kids at Upstate Cancer Center

Ashton and Jordan Miller at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park in Syracuse. They like to photograph animals and have raised money for the zoo’s Adopt an Animal program. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)


A recent patient and his 8-year-old twin are using their love of animals to spread cheer to other youngsters being treated at the Upstate Cancer Center.

Ashton Miller, a third-grader from Fayetteville, has received drug infusions at the center for childhood nephrotic syndrome, a noncancerous kidney condition.

He and his sister, Jordan, both love to visit the zoo and photograph the animals. They got the idea to print the pictures as cards to brighten the days of young patients, and they provided a supply earlier this year for the staff to hand out.

Included with the cards is a message: “Hi, I’m Ashton. I like to take photos at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and I visit here, too. Here’s a photo to help cheer you up. You can keep it or be very generous and give it to someone else who needs cheering up.”

Ashton is in remission and doing well after his treatments last year, according to his father, Mark Miller, who does research in orthopedic surgery at Upstate.

The twins have also done odd jobs and sold some of their photos to family and friends to raise money for the Adopt an Animal program at the zoo.

Ashton’s favorite animal to photograph is Natida, the zoo’s female clouded leopard. “Sometimes I’ll wait 15 to 30 minutes for her to go up on this one big log,” he explains. “It’s the only spot in the whole exhibit you can get a good shot of her, but I spend a lot of time just waiting for her to get up on that log.”

Jordan says she likes to photograph turtles, caimans and iguanas.

The twins, who share a camera, plan to keep up their photographic efforts.

One of the photos the Miller twins took at the zoo. They have provided their photos to children undergoing treatment at the Upstate Cancer Center.

This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Cancer Care magazine.


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