SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – In 2013, a Springfield photographer named Michelle Cramer met a young man named Logan during a photoshoot who was battling Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a genetic disorder that affects a person’s entire muscular system.
Little did Cramer know that young man would inspire her to dedicate her life to helping families like Logan’s who are battling life’s hardships. Cramer said that her connection with Logan “lit her fire” in early 2013 and by July, she had started a non-profit organization called On Angels’ Wings.
The group uses photography therapy and grief recovery group therapy to support families who have children with a fragile medical diagnosis or who have lost a child, with no charge to recipients.
On Angels’ Wings (OAW) is volunteer based and has grown tremendously in the last eight years. Originally run out of Cramer’s home, the group recently signed a lease at 1440 E. Lark St. in Springfield to serve as their headquarters. OAW will host an Open House event on December 8th, 2021 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is open to the community and will offer refreshments and gifts to patrons who take a tour of the facility.
In June of 2020, Cramer and Michelle Slavens both went through evidence-based grief recovery training and became certified Advanced Grief Recovery Method Specialists – the only training of its kind in the world. According to Cramer, the duo are the only two specialists within 100 miles of Springfield.
Cramer also says that ‘journey families’ are families who have a child that is actively fighting their condition and may be grieving because of it.
“They are grieving the life they thought their child would have and the life they thought they would have,” said Cramer. “Usually in those situations the one parent has to quit their job abruptly and become a full-time caregiver for that child. There’s a lot of loss associated with that, that people don’t recognize.”
Cramer explained that photography therapy is therapeutic for these families to stop and spend some time without thinking about all of the struggles they have been through or the ones that lie ahead. She says the whole point is to let them laugh, smile and capture the moments that mean the most.
“They are living every day on the edge of their seats. We just want to make sure that they understand that it’s okay to grieve and we want to be there with them during the process.”
OAW has 20 volunteer photographers in Springfield and another 20 photographers based in St. Louis. They also serve the Joplin, Kansas City, Rolla and Cape Girardeau areas and are currently looking into expanding to Columbia.
On Angels’ Wings’ slogan is “Celebrating life and encouraging hope,” and Cramer says the idea behind the slogan is that every life is worth celebrating, no matter how short or difficult that it is.
Those interested in more information on OAW, volunteering or how to donate can visit their website.