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Flashes Of Hope For Kids With Cancer

Watch Arianna Martin get her picture taken and there's no denying she's an extraordinary kid. It's not just the winning smile, or those big brown eyes.

As The Early Show national correspondent Tracy Smith reports, with Arianna, there's something else.

"She's a trouper," says her mother, Anna Marie. "She's a tough little girl."

Arianna has cancer. Every two months, Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland becomes a photo studio, patients become models, and parents get to see a few smiles.

They're part of a special program called Flashes Of Hope. It's the brainchild of former fashion model Allison Clarke, whose own son, Quinn, was diagnosed with leukemia at 20 months. It was during Quinn's time at the hospital that Allison had an epiphany.

Recalls Allison: "I was in a playroom and one of his little buddies passed away who was on the floor, and I immediately thought, 'It would have been nice to have a photograph of him.' And my husband came in that night, and I said, 'Well, I just figured out what I'm going to be doing the rest of my life.' "

Allison recruited photographers and makeup artists to volunteer their time and their uncanny ability to look past the disease to the child inside. Now, three years later, the non-profit organization photographs almost 1,000 children with cancer a year.

"I think everybody is surprised when they see it. They think, 'Oh ,you take pictures of sick kids. That's really nice.' And then they see the shoot and they really get it," says Allison. "You're either going to cry for one to three years, which is how long pediatric cancer treatment is, or you're gonna laugh. And most parents pick laughing."

Parents like Angela Arroyo, whose daughter, Ashley, was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year.

"The worst thing we could do as parents, friends and family is to be — to be sad all the time and sit in a room and cry and act like everything is over with," says Angela.

Ashley used to compete in beauty pageants. But cancer hasn't stopped the 7-year-old's beautiful smile. And Angela wants that self-confidence to shine through.

"I just want people to know not to be afraid to take pictures at this time," Angela says. "Because even though you're gonna look back and you're gonna cry sometimes, she's gonna look back and she's gonna say, 'Look who I am today, look what I went through. Look how much strength I have.' "

"I think they have so much to teach us about how to deal with something, you know, dealing with adversity," Allison explains. "I think they have a lot to teach us … I think in the photographs you really see a strength."

You can see it in Allison's son, Quinn. He's 6 years old and healthy now. Still, Allison hangs Quinn's photo from the hospital at the top of the stairs, where everyone can see it.

"It takes us back to a really special time in our life, even though he was so sick," says Allison. "It just reminds me of what's important. I mean, what's important in my life really is my husband and my children and my family."

And now she has given that gift to thousands of other families (like Arianna's and Ashley's): the chance to see beauty in a cancer diagnosis, to find a flash of hope in each child's smile.

Flashes Of Hope is now in five U.S. cities but there are 20 more hospitals on the waiting list. It costs about $5,000 to start each chapter, so it may take a while to open in new cities.