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'Shoot for Seamus' brings smiles to families in NICU

"I think we realized how valuable those pictures are to capture this moment in time."

ST. LOUIS – Life is hard for babies born prematurely and for their parents. But a local family is helping put smiles on the faces of families who are living some of their toughest days.

Eight-month-old Mason Fant has been in the hospital since the day he was born.

“I delivered prematurely at 22 weeks and five days,” said Mason’s mother, Brooklyn Fant. “He has chronic lung disease. He had a brain bleed when he was really little, but he is still here and shining strong.”

Monday marked Mason's first professional photo shoot. The snap of the camera and Mason's happy grunts were a stark contrast to the electronic chimes and alarms that typically fill the rooms of the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

The stay at the hospital has been difficult for Brooklyn Fant of Springfield, Missouri.

“It's really hard to be that far away from your loved ones.”

But the days are a little more fun when the Johnston family is around.

Seamus Johnston was born prematurely in March 2009. On April 23, he passed away. Before he passed, Sharon and Tom Johnston invited a photographer to capture the family's final moments together.

“I think we realized how valuable those pictures are to capture this moment in time,” said Sharon Johnston.

Every April 23 since then, the Johnstons have returned with volunteer photographers to offer every family in the unit the chance to make memories they can cherish forever.

“We want to honor his life by giving back to the families here in the NICU.”

For the Fants, the photos have added meaning. Mason had a twin named Clayton.

“The day after he was born he passed away,” said Brooklyn Fant.

She didn't have time to get professional photos with Clayton.

“I was like, it would be really nice to get good photos of Mason instead of cell phone pictures. So, I was really excited to be able to hold onto those memories.”

And the photographs couldn't have come at a better time. The Fants will head home Tuesday.

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