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Annual charity photo shoot raises funds for scholarship fund, gift box program

Buena Farrell and Buena Farrell Photography were able to donate $1,535 to the Marlee May Memorial Scholarship Fund this year after collecting the money through her annual charity photo shoot. Farrell is pictured with Marlee May’s mother, Josie. Submitted photo1 / 3
Buena Farrell worked with many families during her third annual charity photo shoot, which took place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, at her studio in Ellsworth. Farrell is pictured photographing Mac and Maggie Ray. Photo courtesy of Ellie LeClair 2 / 3
Buena Farrell and Buena Farrell Photography were able to donate $1,219 to the Ellsworth School Foundation/Gift Box Program this year after collecting the money through her annual charity photo shoot. Farrell is pictured with students and Gift Box aides Charlize Smith, Claire Straub, Mason Anderson and Nadia Sigler. Submitted photo3 / 3

Four years ago, Buena Farrell started shooting Santa sessions at her Buena Farrell Photography studio in Ellsworth. After her first year of assembling setups for the shoot, Farrell felt like she could get more out of them before tearing them down. So, instead of tearing down the backdrops and holiday setups, Farrell decided to use them again for a charity photo shoot.

"It's always been a great turnout. I think people are happy to do it to help others during the holiday season and they get cute pictures of their kids in return. It's really a win-win for everyone," Farrell said. "Every year is usually booked solid. This year I added extra time to get everyone in. I did have a few cancellations but I'm still really pleased with the turnout."

Farrell advertises the charity photo shoot a month or two in advance, since the sessions book up fast. Each session is five minutes per child. Farrell asks parents to donate a minimum of $25 per child photographed. Throughout the two-day shoot — this year's took place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 — hundreds of photos are taken during to make sure Farrell gets at least one or two great shots of each kid.

"I am so grateful for all the people that have come to my charity sessions the last three years. This year's total blew last year's out of the water," Farrell said.

When it comes to deciding where she will donate the funds, Farrell turns to her clients to ask who could use some extra help during the holiday season. However, this year Farrell's decision was a little easier than in past years.

"Last year, I photographed Marlee May Erlandson for my charity session and I knew after meeting her and her mom, Josie, I wanted to help them this year. I was really hoping it would be to help with her bucket list but since she has passed I reached out to Josie to see what I could do in her memory," Farrell said. "Josie told me they set up a memorial scholarship fund that would be awarded to an Ellsworth High School senior. I knew that would be a great one to do this year."

Farrell also donated to the Ellsworth School Foundation/Gift Box Program.

"I also know that the Ellsworth School Foundation/Gift Box Program helps many families in the Ellsworth area. I would love to sponsor a family but it's not feasible to do that so I thought the next best thing was to donate money from my charity shoot to help instead," Farrell said.

This year, Farrell's charity photo shoot raised $2,754, which allowed her to donate $1,535 to the Marlee May Memorial Scholarship Fund and $1,219 to the Ellsworth School Foundation/Gift Box Program.

"Both organizations have been very grateful for the donations. Marlee's mom said that the donation will cover three scholarships to EHS students plus cover part of the fourth one," Farrell said. "Anne Pechacek from the Gift Box Program was excited for their donation too as they picked up another family to sponsor that needed a little help this holiday season."

In past years, Farrell has donated funds to Toys for Tots, the Maggie Brown Memorial Scholarship and Touched by Tyler.

Farrell is happy to donate her time and money raised to local organizations, especially since it means she gets to spend more time taking photos.

"I just celebrated my 10-year anniversary this last June. I have always enjoyed taking pictures but when I had my son 16 years ago it really sparked my interest. I was an avid scrapbooker back then and I wanted to have the perfect picture for the pages," Farrell said. "I remember taking pictures when I was a little girl. My mom always took lots of pictures of our family when I was younger."

Farrell hopes to continue to put on charity photo shoots in the years to come, so anyone interested in taking part in next year's shoot can keep their eyes on the Buena Farrell Photography newsletter, Facebook VIP group, her Facebook business page and

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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