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Arianna Felber

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A Smithtown East sophomore has used her love for photography to raise money for a cause close to her heart.

During May, 15-year-old Arianna Felber took part in a Front Porch Project. The goal is to take photos of people outside their front door to commemorate the time spent at home during the coronavirus pandemic. In turn, the photographer’s fee is donated to a charity.

The Nesconset resident has been interested in photography for a few years, she said, and when she turned 13, her mother, Shannon Buscemi, gave her a Nikon D3400. Arianna said she hopes one day her hobby will lead to a career as a fashion photographer.

The sophomore said she started to see porch photos trending on social media, and then a friend of her mother’s asked if Arianna heard about the pictures. The sophomore said she thought it would be a good way to spread awareness about COVID-19.

Arianna said she knew right from the start she would donate the proceeds to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s pediatric patients, as her younger sister Stefani is a cancer survivor. The 12-year-old, who has been cancer-free for more than two years, battled brain cancer since she was a baby and received treatment at Sloan in Manhattan.

Her mother reached out to a connection who put them in touch with a representative for Kids Walk for MSK Kids. The mother and daughter then set up an online link that would allow families to donate the suggested contribution of $10 directly to the pediatric patients helped by Kids Walk for MSK Kids. Arianna said out of the nearly 60 families that she took photos of, many donated more than the suggested $10 and she even received a $100 donation. Her original goal was to raise $1,000 but she surpassed that milestone, and at press time was anticipating raising more than $2,000.

“It makes me beyond happy,” Arianna said. “I’m just so happy that everyone loves the pictures which makes me feel good about my work, but besides that, I’m so happy to be raising money for such an amazing cause and spreading awareness about COVID-19 and giving back to the hospital that saved my sister’s life.”

As more friends found out about her initiative, Arianna’s project took her throughout Smithtown township, and she even traveled out east to Miller Place. Once she got to the subjects’ homes, she stayed outside and photographed them from 6 feet away or more, which she said she needs to do with her zoom lens anyway. She took approximately 10 photos at each home taking pictures of the whole family first and then with just the parents together and a couple of only the children.

Neighbor Denise Prudente said she was pleased with the photos taken of her, her husband, Joe, and their two children.

“It was a beautiful project that my family and I were proud to be a part of,” Prudente said.

The neighbor said she wasn’t surprised when she heard Arianna, who she has known since the teenager was a baby, was using her love of photography to raise money for Sloan. She said Arianna is a hard worker who possesses qualities such as integrity, good listening skills, high energy, perseverance and more, “that make her stand apart from her peers.”

Arianna said the pandemic and her project have left her with a valuable life lesson.

“Seeing how everybody is reinventing themselves and their lives since everything is changing, as I don’t think anything is going back to normal for a while,” she said. “I think it’s crazy to see how different it is yet how together everybody is.”