Photographer tries to fight kids' cancer
Ron Maguire greets visitors to his West Ashley home and garage photography studio with a breathy "Welcome to the Ponderosa."
The retired SPAWAR employee-turned-photographer dresses like a cowboy to draw attention to the cancer that haunts him.
"You dress like a cowboy, people stop you," Maguire said. "I want to tell people about neuroblastoma. That's the next thing out of my mouth."
Neuroblastoma is an aggressive pediatric cancer that begins in nerve tissue. About 650 cases are diagnosed annually, according to the American Cancer Society.
Maguire learned about the disease from a SPAWAR co-worker whose grandson had the disease. Chris Kee was
3 in 2005 and was facing Christmas in the hospital.
Chris' family members held their holiday early and asked Maguire to photograph the occasion. A friendship was born. "He's taught me more than I learned in schools," Maguire said.
Maguire, who started his photography business in 1990, began using his passion for pictures to fight Chris' disease. Now, when the West Ashley cowboy makes portraits, he asks people to pay what they can and address their checks to Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation, or split their donation with a charity of their choosing.
"He's got a great big old heart," said Linda Kee, Chris' mother.
Her son is doing well today, and his medical scans are clean, she said. "They (children with neuroblastoma) take it for granted this is what life is," she said. "You go get chemotherapy and fight cancer. They don't complain." The average age of diagnosis is about 17 months.
Pat Tallungan founded the Bloomingdale, Ill.-based Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation after her son, Nick, died of the disease at age 10 in 1999. "It's one of those things you look at and ask why doesn't anyone know about this."
Maguire has raised more than $6,000 for the foundation, which goes toward research, education and awareness programs.
"You don't come across those people very often who won't take any money for what they do," Tallungan said. "What Ron is doing makes people stop and think."