LOS LUNAS—After a Los Lunas family’s photo was featured in an article on Good Morning America’s website, their photo and unique story was shared across the country.
Kelsey Hanks posted the photos from her family’s photo shoot on Facebook in July, and it immediately drew attention.
These photos weren’t conventional family photos, they were photos of two families joined together by one common factor — their daughter, Tayden.
Fourteen-year-old Tayden Hanks was not only the catalyst for the photo shoot, but is also the driving force behind the Hanks family and the Campanella family coming together.
Tayden’s blended family is comprised of her mother, Thalia Campanella; stepfather, Brandon Campanella; father, Tim Hanks; stepmother, Kelsey Hanks; and step siblings, Jaidaa Campanella, and Brooklyn, Austin and Peyton Hanks.
“I know it’s different for a lot of people ... A lot of people don’t have both parents or they don’t even have at least two, and I have four of them,” Tayden said. “So I thought it was cool that we can do stuff like this. It’s a story for other people to know and hopefully inspire other people.”
The families can be spotted supporting Tayden at various sporting activities or enjoying special events together, though they admit it wasn’t always this easy for the families in the beginning.
“We started off like everyone else does,” Tim Hanks said. “There were emotions and a lot of holding on to the past. It took work to focus on the right things rather than the past.
“There’s a lot of compromising and compassion and moving forward to focus on Tayden. If she has birthday parties or graduation or someday her wedding, we wanted it to be at the point where she doesn’t have to worry about her family not being in the same room together,” he said. “We want her to know we’re going to get along.”
Three of Tayden’s parents came from divorced families so they all wanted to make the best of the situation for the sake of their children.
“We just wanted a big, happy family,” Thalia Campanella said. “You grow up and you want better for your kids. They are Tayden’s family, too; they’re important to her so they’re important to me. Anybody that’s her family is all of our family.”
Thalia said when the siblings were younger they would trade last names and try to figure out how they could be part of everybody’s family.
“You look at the pictures and it’s hard to tell the work that’s been done up to this point,” Brandon Campanella said. “It was tough in the beginning. It took a lot of conversations, a lot of communicating, a lot of prayer and just understanding in the end it’s all about the kids.”
The family members themselves dealt with misconceptions about each other when they first came in to Tayden’s life.
“We could’ve started off on a better track, but it doesn’t have to be like that way because we’re all just people,” Thalia said. “We’re humans and we make mistakes and we have to work through things for the sake of the family.”
When Tayden suggested they have a photo shoot with the entire family, Kelsey brought it up with the rest of the family and they happily agreed to do it.
“We only have her at home for four more years so we thought it’d be cool for her,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey set it up with the family and knew just who to talk to for the photography.
Local photographer Shae Prieskorn, of Shae’s Photography, met the family when she and Thalia worked together at The Branch in Los Lunas.
“I knew that Shae knew both families and that’s why I picked her — everyone felt more comfortable with Shae,” Kelsey said.
Prieskorn was thrilled they chose her to take their photos, and even more so that other families can see her photos and their story and be encouraged.
“I was really excited. I’ve actually always wanted to do their family photos with all of them,” Prieskorn said. “This family is such an inspiration. God has really blessed them with such a wonderful story and testimony.”
The idea that these photos and the story behind them would be featured on such a large scale never occurred to the family.
“I just wanted pictures to hang on my wall,” Tayden said with a chuckle.
A reporter from Good Morning America reached out to Kelsey to ask if she could write a story about their family, and they gladly accepted.
“This was so unexpected but cool. I know if I would’ve seen this when we first started trying to work things out as a big family, I would’ve been encouraged,” Kelsey said.
Although this came as a shock to the family, they readily welcomed the opportunity to share their story to encourage other families.
“We hope to let people know that it can be done if you focus on the right things and put in the work. If you can do that, the kids will be in a much better situation.” Tim said.
The family is already seeing people they don’t even know commenting on the Facebook post to share kind comments or to share their story with other families in similar situations.
“We’ve seen people tag other people in our post that shares our story to encourage them,” Brandon said. “To know that other families are doing this too is neat.”
Each of the parents emphasized the importance of communication, honesty and compromise.
“We don’t always agree on the same things but we work it out,” Tim said. “We just want to make sure that Tayden gets raised the way she needs to be.
“So, hopefully, people can see that and use that and know we’re a real family with a lot of the same issues other families deal with.”