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Fairy tales for ALS

THERE is a moment that stands out in Ashley Forshaw's memory of her late father's battle with ALS.
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Ashley Forshaw preps her models during various shoots for her fairy tale-themed 2012 daytimer fundraiser for the ALS Society of Canada. An instructor in the makeup department at Blanche Macdonald Centre, the project put all of her makeup, prosthetic and body paint skills to the test.

THERE is a moment that stands out in Ashley Forshaw's memory of her late father's battle with ALS.

Diagnosed in 2004 with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, the subsequent 18 months of Robert's life were extremely difficult as the disease progressed and he lost more and more of his abilities.

"One of the times I was the most affected was when he was close to the end," says Ashley, a 27-year-old North Vancouver resident. "He couldn't move, he was in a wheelchair and basically completely paralyzed and he couldn't speak any more. At that point, he was using his head to point at letters to spell things out. It would take a long time and he eventually spelled out 'I really wish I could give you a hug.'"

Robert succumbed to the disease in 2006 at age 60.

According to the ALS Society of B.C., ALS is a "rapidly progressive, neuromuscular disease. It attacks the motor neurons that transmit electrical impulses from the brain to the voluntary muscles in the body. When these muscles fail to receive messages, they lose strength, atrophy and die. ALS can hit anyone at any time, regardless of age, gender, or ethnic origin." The ALS Society of Canada reports there are approximately 2,500-3,000 Canadians over 18 currently living with the disease.

Following her father's passing, Ashley volunteered in a variety of capacities in support of ALS, though never felt completely fulfilled. Interested in giving back, a chance collaboration with friend and photographer Shawn Talbot helped steer her in the right direction.

An accomplished makeup artist, Ashley has worked on a variety of film projects (like Donovan's Echo starring Danny Glover) and is an instructor in the makeup department at Blanche Macdonald Centre. In 2010, she and Talbot took a series of Little Red Riding Hoodthemed photographs in North Vancouver's Princess Park. Based on positive feedback, the duo decided to continue creating fairy tale-themed shots, enough to comprise a day timer. Interested in donating the proceeds to charity, it didn't take long for Ashley to connect the dots between two of her greatest passions, and they decided fundraising would support the ALS Society of Canada.

Over the course of 2011, shoots were arranged, primarily on the North Shore. Ashley served as creative director and made full use of her makeup, body paint and prosthetic skills, fashioning everything from a mermaid tail to a bird beak, with stunning results. She called on stylists, a variety of her industry peers, her students and her mother, Gloria Martin, who helped with costuming, to similarly volunteer. Models also donated their time, including Bomb Girls actress Ali Liebert.

Each photograph contains a blue cornflower, an international symbol of hope for ALS. As well, Ashley tried to pay tribute to her father as much as possible; for example, one Snow White-themed shot was taken in a fountain garden that Robert had landscaped.

"It wasn't just about the picture, it was about getting ALS in each picture," says Ashley.

The resulting 2012 day timer, titled A Dream Come True, Fairy Tales for Adults, is currently for sale and features a number of photographs inspired by a variety of fairy tales - Three Billy Goats Gruff, Three Little Pigs and The Frog Prince included.

Ashley knows her father would be proud.

"It was the first time I had done something like that so to have been able to resource so many different people and have everybody connect on the one project I think was a big excitement for me. And the photos, I'm really happy with them at the end of the day," she says.

To purchase a copy of A Dream Come True, Fairy Tales for Adults, a 2012 daytimer ($30) in support of the ALS Society of Canada, visit www. fairytalesforals.com.

For more information on ALS, visit www.als.ca.

emcphee@nsnews.com