Elena Thurston has taken a million pictures of her kids, but it was the photos someone else shot a decade ago that she remembers the most.
"Back when my husband and I were young college students we had our first baby and we had no money and there was this photographer who took these beautiful pictures of our little 9-month-old baby," Thurston recalled.
That photographer didn't charge Elena a penny and in doing so, she sparked a passion to pay it forward that is making a difference in Gilbert today.
Lori Topczewski tried for four years to have a baby. When her daughter, Autumn, was born, Elena offered a free photo shoot. Why? Because Topczewski is a teacher.
"I find people who are serving the community in some way," Thurston said. "It started off with foster families, and from there I went to teachers, police officers and firemen."
Merri Regimballe is Thurston's longtime neighbor and friend. She's the one who wants to pay it forward.
"It's just such a gift I think that she gives to all of these families," Regimballe said. "We treasure the pictures that we have."
So with $500 in hand, Regimballe paid Thurston a visit.
She read Thurston a letter she had written to CBS 5. "My friend Elena Thurston has decided to use her talent as a gifted photographer to serve others," the letter read. "Please help me. Help her pay it forward to many more deserving people."
And with that, she handed Thurston the money.
Thurston said she once had an ill friend tell her that he regretted not developing more talents to serve others. Words that she says she took to heart.
Friday, May 24 2013 12:29 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:29:51 GMT
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