Category Archives: Heroes

Thursday Morning Rain

Thursday Morning rain.

I was disappointed that it was raining so hard this morning as I headed to the car to drive my wife to work at 6:45am. After dropping her off, I decided to stop by my favorite coffee shop on the way to the studio. I’m usually the only customer there at that time of the day. It was so cold and wet out there and it felt great to see Stephan’s smiling face with the standard question, “Coffee?” I sat down and Stephan brought my coffee and added a little plate of Christmas cookies saying, “You’re looking like you’ve lost weight Jonathan”; a big smile was on his face. A young man looking a bit rough and jittery suddenly walked in and began talking to Stephan. I’m not sure why, by probably due to my car being recently broken into, all I could think of was “did I lock my car?” I sure had the wrong impression. I then heard him asking Stephan if he could call someone to help a woman in a parking lot 2 blocks away on Cordova and Abbott St. He said hates to be the one to have to do this but she needs help and she refused help from him when he offered it. He then said, “I just can’t leave her there like that”, he explained, telling us that he found this woman lying on her face on the wet parking lot with barely a shirt on to keep her warm… As he spoke I noticed that he himself was wearing merely a wet hoodie, definitely not enough to be warm. As Stephan talked on the phone with emergency, describing where the parking lot was, the guy spoke out and said “tell them I’ll go back there and wait so that it will be easier to find her”, and off he went. I looked outside to see the guy grab his loaded shopping cart, turn it around and hobble down the middle of the street with a limp I hadn’t originally noticed.
He went off into the cold wet rain and I suddenly became overwhelmed with his kindness towards the woman. I could still hear his voice in my head saying that he just could not leave her out there like that… In a rush, I grabbed a hot chocolate and some cookies and headed to find the man. As I passed the intersection on Abbott I could see him with his shopping cart on the dark sidewalk beside the Army and Navy parking lot. The ambulance had arrived and was taking care of the woman. I pulled up as close as I could to the shopping cart and came out with the hot chocolate and I gave it to the man along with the cookies I had wrapped up. I told him that I thought it was great of him to do this and asked him for his name. “Josh” he said, and I had to shake his hand. I went back into the car and the photographer in me saw the great silhouette of Josh standing in the rain with the ambulance lights glowing and flashing as his background. The camera was well within my reach but I just couldn’t dishonor the moment with the feeling of gratitude I had having met Josh. As he looked back at me, giving me a thumbs up, [‘click’, I thought] I put my thumb up right back at Josh and drove off. Crying my eyes out as I drove back to my studio. I felt so grateful that I have a warm bed to sleep in and a family who loves me.

I will forever remember this image of Josh standing on the dark street on such a miserably, cold and rainy morning. A reminder that we are all so capable of helping one another, or at least stopping for a moment to be grateful for what we have.


Filed under Community, family, Heroes

“No Tanks!”


   As of 2007, multi national oil companies have been shipping 700,000 barrels of crude oil from the tar sands through Vancouver’s harbor. Previously, crude oil made its way to the refinery via pipelines, but recently two large tankers have been spotted passing through the Burrard inlet carrying three times the amount of oil discharged by the Exxon Valdez spill. The dirty secret was revealed when a man spotted the tankers outside his office window passing under the Lions Gate Bridge. After a few days of inquiry, he discovered that no public process or debate had been conducted on the use of Vancouver’s harbor as an official tar sand port. With the countless oil spills that have taken place up to date, it is well known that the risk associated with a potential spill has indeed become a certainty. British Columbia is home to the richest ecosystem in Canada, it has become refuge for 17 keystone species of carnivores and holds spawning grounds to over 5 species of salmon indigenous to the coastal waters. Fishing is a critical sector in British Columbia’s economy, it contributes to more than $1.9 billion in revenues to the provincial economy and accounts for more than $601 million in GDP annually. It is the primary sector that supports first nations – an oil spill is something we simply could not afford.

Members of No Tanks, the Wilderness Committee and Greenpeace held a rally last Sunday calling for a public process to ban oil tankers off the BC coast. A large group of ships and kayakers gathered around the Lions Gate bridge voicing their concerns to media and government officials. As British Columbians, it is our responsibility to turn these tanks around – so let’s say No Thanks, No Tanks.   






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Filed under Community, Heroes, Nature, Philanthropy, Photography by Jonathan Cruz

Morning walk with my ‘Blutterfly’ Ballerina

I’ve been spending a lot more time at home since the studio flooded almost a month ago. I’ve set up office in Sofia’s playroom in the basement of our home. Sofia and I have spent a lot more time together, playing early morning lego and going for walks with our dog Jake. Our neighborhood is blossoming with all different kinds and colors of flowers. Sofia has taken the self appointed role of “teacher” when it comes to strolling along the gardens.

She creates imaginative stories about the different plants, what their names are, where they come from, and what can be done with them. She loves to teach me about how intricate each flower is, and the variety of colors within then. We’ve bonded in a whole new way.

I’ve noticed she tends to focus primarily on the wild flowers growing along the edges of the sidewalks rather than on the intended “center piece” flowers in the gardens. Her great-grandmother calls them the flowers that were “planted by God”. She loves dandelions in particular and knows that they are pretty much the only flower she can pick and bring home for Mama.

I guess these are the important moments in our lives that we always hope that we will never forget. I’m so fortunate to be able to capture these moments and keep them for a lifetime. These last few weeks have been an extremely difficult time in my life in several ways. My little girl has taught me that there are a lot more important things in life than the things that we stress about.

I look forward to many more walks with her as new and different flowers come out in our area. I’m sure I will be learning a lot more from her.


Filed under Community, Heroes, Photography by Jonathan Cruz


As we all know, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympics has begun, and I know we were all still basking in the afterglow of Olympic pandemonium that seemed to have abruptly ended a few weeks ago, but now we have been granted a second chance to reignite the passionate spark that united this country once before and relive the joy and celebration surrounding the momentous achievements of our athletes.

In regards to the upcoming participating athletes, I am simply in awe of them, not only because they overcame tremendous feats of strength and dedication to qualify for such a competitive event, but I respect them even more because they had to overcome more than the average able bodied person in their personal lives, which is inspiring even in itself. Personally speaking, I believe ALL athletes are from a different breed of people; the grace, humility and perseverance they eject is an aura so rarely felt between our everyday interactions. It makes me wonder why isn’t everyone like this?  I believe that that we can not only learn, but grow by watching these athletes compete.

Appropriately, I will be cheering for our Canadian athletes, however in regards to the entire event, in my eyes they are already HEROES.

A bronze medalist in the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games, Garth Harris was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 9 months of age. Garth received therapy services from the BC Centre for Ability until he was 14 years old. As apart of his therapy Garth was introduced to swimming where he discovered and enjoyed the stabilizing effect the water had on his muscles. Soon Garth aspired to become a competitive swimmer.

International Paralympic Committee president, Sir Phillip Craven,  is a five-time Paralympian. He is s one of the key influences in having the Opening ceremonies broadcasted live by CTV last night.  Tamara Tagart’s facebook profile last night was “Watching the Paralympic Opening Ceremony, bawling my eyes out as the torch comes into the building.” Cheers to Sir Phillip Craven, and let’s give a hand to BCTV for being the first to show Paralympic Opening Ceremonies on TV. I heard it was inspirational/magical/moving. I only got to see the beginning as my daughter and i had to meet up with family at Surrey Memorial Hospital to visit my 74 year old father, Deo Cruz[senior] as he is recovering from a broken right femur and right humerus. A few days ago at the mall he lost his balance while standing on crutches in an escalator. He chose to to fall backward to avoid landing on people in front of him. We’re waiting for one more surgery for his arm. He’s going to be fine. Dad is one of the toughest people i know. He is by far one of my biggest heroes. I’d love to watch last night’s ceromonies with him.

Lauren Barwick is a gifted rider who would have established a future in the sport at a very early age but with two siblings who have disabilities, horseback riding was not an affordable sport in her single-parent family. After many years out of the sport, Lauren eventually found her way back to her passion and obtained a job training horses for the local movie industry.  Lauren was invigorated by her new role but a fall off of a horse would change many things in her life.  The accident left her paralyzed from the hips down. Lauren was hospitalized and underwent therapy for nine months. As her condition stabilized she started to reclaim her life and found a job teaching horseback riding to children. Despite being close to horses on a daily basis, Lauren had almost given up on riding again. Through the encouragement of her coworkers, she gained the courage to get on a horse. This simple act of bravery changed Lauren’s life. She learned how to ride horses again and soon became a competitive rider. After winning many equestrian competitions, she represented Canada in Beijing to bring home a silver and gold medal.

And our Canadian hopeful for Canada’s Downhill Events in Whistler this month….Karolina Wisniewska! Here is her Schedule so I hope everyone has a chance to take some time to watch an amazing woman do what she does best!

2010 Paralympic Winter Games
March 13: Downhill
March 14: Super-G
March 16: Super Combined
March 18: Giant Slalom
March 20: Slalom

follow her story through Karolina’s official website here

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Filed under 1, Celebrity, Events, Heroes, Photography by Jonathan Cruz, Sports

Ja Pace



I first saw Ja Pace while dancing salsa on Commercial Drive back in 2001. It was in a beginner class, but she was amazing and so graceful. It was always a treat to see her dancing at the Latin nights. Ja stood out because of her amazingly positive energy and her unique fashion sense. She quickly became one of the best dancers in Vancouver’s local salsa scene.


2 years ago, in the spring, I got an email from Ja about a fundraiser. I did not pay much attention to it until she called a few weeks later asking me if I was coming to the event. Not having read the email, I asked her what the fundraiser was for, she said that it was for her… she went on to tell me about her rare blood condition. She went on to tell me how surprised she was that her story was on the cover of the Province newspaper that day.

My heart sunk reading the story. I never knew that anything could possibly be wrong with such a beatiful, positive person. She always looked so healthy. I never noticed the machine she wore daily to pump medication into her blood stream as she hid it well under her clothes. Blood transfusions once a month since 4 years old? Not expected to live past 40 years? She never told many people about her situation because she didn’t think anyone could really help until the opportunity came along to go to Rome where a doctor has had success doing a bone marrow transplant with the patient’s mother. The procedure was not covered by medicare, and cost $200 000, not including the cost of living in Italy for almost a year for preparation and recovery. I spread the word to as many people as I could. So many of our friends were shocked to hear about it. A few came to the fundraiser event with us.

I’m not sure how much was raised that night, but I knew she had a long way to go to raise the $200,000 needed by September. I mentioned Ja’s story to Jacquie Underwood, the editor of Vancouver Lifestyles magazine, introduced her to Ja and the following cover story was published shortly after.  

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I couldn’t get Ja and her difficult situation out of my mind. When Viktoria, one of our friends approached me about doing a calendar in order to raise funds for Ja, I got excited. The calendar consisted of some of our lovely Salsera friends. We spent months putting together the project with a lot of help from many people. My amazing manager, Annalissa headed this project and turned the campaign into a huge success; we had a launch event, where Gloria Mackarenko got on board as the MC. The calendar raised over $30 000 for her cause. Michael Buble made one of the largest donations. By the time we launched the calendar, Ja had already made her way to Italy with her family.




The procedure went well, however there were complications. Ja had to have her own bone marrow re-introduced, was kept in isolation for several months trying to recover from the many complications that resulted. At one point she was temporarily blind.

Ja has since returned to Canada, and remains the positive, creative, and wonderful human being that she has always been. She is an inspiration to me, and I have always enjoyed being around her. I have gotten to work with her on several shoots in the past few months. She is an amazing makeup artist and stylist.

She continues to go into the hospital for regular blood transfusions, and frequently encounters hurdles in regards to her health. She didn’t get the cure from her illness that she was expecting, but you’d never know it looking at her. She does not portray a sick individual, but rather lives her life to the fullest. She loves her family, loves her friends and truly enjoys every day she lives.

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Filed under 1, Heroes

Carol Hyunh, Canada’s Olympic gold medalist


               Canadian Olympic Gold MedalistCarol Hyunh


  I recently had the pleasure of meeting Olympic champion Carol Huynh [pronounced: “WIN”] while doing a photo shoot with DTHK Communications for a new client, Superior Tofu.  Carol was Canada’s first athlete to win a Gold medal at the Beijing games last summer. Our small town girl from Hazelton [180 miles west of Fraser Lake] beat Icho of Japan, the 3 times world Champion. Her triumph was broadcasted around the world and she quickly became a hero and a role model for many. 

                I was excited to meet and work with her. Carol was an absolute pleasure to work with. She has a great sense of humor, very easy to work with, not to mention gorgeous. She literally swept me off my feet….

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… effortlessly.

My friend Dan Ax shot some more behind the scenes stuff that day.
check out his teaser:

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Filed under 1, Heroes, Photography by Jonathan Cruz