Together, the friends came up with the idea to provide the same service Wendy had received free to women who have been affected by cancer. In the last year, they’ve worked with six different families.
“Being moms, being women, we wanted to help women,” Atkinson said. “Our focus is on the woman, whether she’s a caregiver or the one that is actually battling the disease.”
The project hits particularly close to home for Atkinson, who lost her mother to cancer 23 years ago when Atkinson was in high school.
“My sister and I have about 10 or 15 photos collectively that actually have my mom in them,” she said. “We have pictures of the dog and the neighbors and all of our friends and holidays, but she’s not in there.”
In addition to providing photographs to women affected by cancer, The Molly Project seeks to address that problem: the absence of women in family photographs.
“That’s one of the messages we want to get across to everybody, not just women — make sure you put yourself in the picture. It’s so important to your friends and family,” Atkinson said. “We can come up with a thousand excuses not to get our pictures taken. We do it all the time. I still do it. But it’s so important to have those. It really helps people as they go through their grieving process, or just to have fun down the road, to look at those and remember when. That’s our secondary message, really — if you’re lucky enough not to have your life touched by cancer or terminal illness right now, still, put yourself in the pictures.”
Though her mother isn’t in many pictures, Atkinson still has fond memories of her.
“Her name was Molly, and she, like any typical family, she was always the one taking pictures. She was an only child. She was a typical mom. She was a working mom, and the rest of her time was spent with us. She was born in northeastern Pennsylvania. We lived in Ohio when she passed away. She was always right there — every practice, every game. We do have albums and albums of pictures of our family; she was just taking them. It’s hard when my kids ask — ‘What did Grandma look like?’ or ‘What did she like to do?’ It’s hard not to have those pictures.”