PATRICE KOELSCH is a good friend to have, especially when times are dark. And, wow, was it ever dark for The Smooch! Project in the fall of 2006. One month following a June Smooch! shoot, a child died in a horrific sequence of extremely poor parental decisions. In August, without realizing the connection, a large area newspaper published an earlier Smooch! photograph of the father with one of his surviving children, one of a dozen images illustrating a feature story about the project. The image shocked an angry, grief-stricken community and the project was suddenly embroiled in a controversy not of its own making. The Smooch! Project was scarcely four months old and experiencing its most painful period to date. Many people rallied in support the project, a kindness for which the photographer remains extremely grateful. But it was Patrice Koelsch, shown here with her hubby Dan, that the photographer reached out to for help. A Smooch! Project Hero, Patrice teaches meditation and is specifically trained to help people deal with difficult circumstances in their lives. And help she did, guiding the photographer to some much needed clarity during an emotionally confusing period. Patrice continues to share her practice in a variety of settings, including maximum security prisons and while working for The Minnesota AIDS Project. In her own words, Patrice believes that “gratitude is the foundation of human happiness.” There IS much to be grateful for in this world. The photographer well knows that Patrice is high on that list. Thanks so much for your help, my friend!