2022 marks two decades since the birth of the Route 66 Challenge which has seen over 750,000 miles accumulated and €5 million raised for Ireland's children's hospitals.
Irish photographer Darren Kennedy is now preparing to become the first Irish photographer to document the journeys behind the miles traveled through the Route 66 Challenge a new book, the proceeds of which will benefit Temple Street children's hospital in Dublin.
This September, Kennedy will join an equally philanthropically minded group on the bi-annual Route 66 trip, which will mark the dual realization of a long-held dream and personal goal for the Clonaslee-based photographer.
Since childhood, Kennedy has dreamed of traveling the famed route. From its depiction in John Steinbeck's novel “The Grapes of Wrath” and classic movie “Easy Rider,” to the vast terrain and sweeping sights through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California, Kennedy’s book will offer a window into the legendary locations, people, and history along the highway. Over two weeks and four time zones, Kennedy will chronicle each step of the way with an ethos he has nurtured throughout his career.
"Photography is not something I produce, it's something that produces a change both in myself and my clients," Kennedy said. "In all my years and thousands of photo shoots, I have yet to finish a project and not look at the world in a new way. The camera lens captures what the human eye leaves behind. I consider myself nothing less than a chronicler of the human condition, for better or worse. When you see my photos, I think you'll agree."
Kennedy's photography spans commercial and portraiture photography. From family occasions, to fashion spreads and headshots, Kennedy takes a tailored approach to each shoot. He is a member of the Irish Photography Association, and clients have described his work as "amazing" and "technically superb."
The Route 66 journey is any photographer's dream. For Kennedy, it is a multi-pronged endeavor with a desire to give back at its core.
Emerging from lockdown, Kennedy was determined to play his part in supporting Temple Street and utilized his skills and time to make a significant impact. A firm believer in 'helping yourself by helping others,' Kennedy has been a committed advocate for Temple Street for years, most recently co-organizing a High Nelly Club fundraiser in the village of Clonaslee, Co Laois in support of the children's hospital which raised €20,000.
Over 100 cyclists participated in our Temple Street fundraiser yesterday - the largest number of any of our High Nelly...Posted by Clonaslee High Nelly Club on Monday, May 16, 2022
Undertaking the mammoth project of a book feels like a natural extension of his efforts to date, and Kennedy feels privileged to have the opportunity to challenge himself for a cause he is passionate about. The Offaly-born Kennedy has always had a natural affinity with children and, as a proud uncle, considers the heartbreaking realities families all over the country are facing when their child requires acute care. Witnessing the plight of incredibly young children during his previous efforts for Temple Street has brought a tear to his eye.
Proceeds from Kennedy's book will support the acute paediatric hospital which provides care for over 140,000 children every year. Since 1872, Temple Street has been providing critical care at times when families need it most. Today, their work and research are just as essential as it was when they first opened their doors. Their more than 30 patient specialties include neonatal and paediatric surgery, neurology, neurosurgery, nephrology, and orthopaedics. Donations are always needed for continued ground-breaking research, the purchase of vital equipment, patient care, and parental supports which allow patients to enjoy their childhoods with play therapy and fun activities despite undergoing treatment.
For decades, new and innovative means of fundraising for Ireland's children's hospitals have been underway. Kennedy's book is a means of continuing to back the ongoing effort and a chronicle of those who revved their engines and took to the highway for Ireland's little heroes.
Given the scale of the project, there are multiple expenses involved. All donations, which can be made via Kennedy's GoFundMe page, to assist in getting this book to print are immensely appreciated.