Person of the Week: Heart Galleries

In 50 different cities across the United States, connections are being made between the world of art and children in need of love.

The various Heart Galleries are not adorned with abstract art or filled with modern sculpture. Instead the walls are covered in photographs of children in the foster care system, taken by hundreds of professional photographers who have donated their time. The galleries try to raise awareness about the 130,000 American children who are waiting to be adopted.

Getting Past the 'Game Face'

With galleries in Boston; Santa Fe, N.M.; Tulsa, Okla.; Tampa, Fla.; and other locations, the organization boasts that everywhere its photos are shown, someone has seen and in some cases heard a child and begun adoption proceedings.

"I've been all over the world and I've covered feast and famine, politics and whatever," said professional photojournalist Najla Feanny. "To me and many of my colleagues, we're really talking about [how] this could be the most important story we've ever covered in our careers."

Just like Feanny, photographer Norman Lono believes his skill as a photographer allows him to present these children as they really are.

"They have this face, the 'game face,'" he said. "So what I try to do is to work through them long enough and tease them and cajole them enough so … you see the real face come through. When you see the real face come through, it's like you're hitting gold."

Hitting Gold

That ability to "hit gold" is what many of these kids are counting on to show prospective parents that they want to be adopted.

Jim Salzano photographed 5-year-old Sammy, who is mentally disabled and has been waiting more than two years for a family to fall in love with him.

"It's tough. I wanted him to look like who he is and not oversell him," Salzano said. "But at the same time [I wanted to] get some emotion from him, which I think was the hardest thing."

Because some adoptive children have been neglected, abused or moved from foster home to foster home, it can be difficult to get them to shed their gruff exteriors and let their "inner" child come out.

Ten-year-old Danielle, who has been waiting for a home for several years, hoped her picture would show that side of her.

"I want it to look like I'm a happy, cheerful child that wants to be adopted," Danielle said.

'A No-Brainer'

For the hundreds of photographers whose pictures offer hope to thousands of children, the galleries are a no-brainer.

"There's going to be this picture on the wall and this family is going to walk by," said Feanny. "There's going to be something that speaks to them, that's going to make them walk by again and turn around and walk by again and really look and see the inner beauty of this child."

Peter Jennings filed this report for "World News Tonight."

Click on these links to learn more about Heart Galleries in BOSTON, NEW JERSEY and TAMPA.

If you're interested in starting a Heart Gallery, e-mail Diane Granito at dggranito@cyfd.state.nm.us.

For more information about Adopt US Kids, CLICK HERE.

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