Weather Forecast


Cutest kid contest raises money for national charity

Stacey Knoebel at her studio in Roberts.

Think you have the cutest kid? Want to help a worthwhile cause?

Local photographer, Stacey Knoebel of Knoebel Portrait Design is participating in the 2011 International Charity Model Search to select North America's Cutest Kid and to raise funds for the non-profit "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Foundation."

Photo contests the last two years featured more than 2,600 model's images nationwide and raised $184,775 for the NILMDTS organization.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to assisting parents and families who experience the tragedy of an early infant loss. NILMDTS connects families with volunteer photographers and provides them with a professional bereavement portrait session and reproducible CD of the images of their baby at no cost to the family. For further information, visit their website at

Talking about infant death photography is a touchy subject.

"How do you tell people about this without freaking them out and making them feel extremely sad and morbid about it?" Knoebel asked.

Knoebel said she felt the photo contest was a "fun" way to get the word out about the important cause.

"Then it's not a hush-hush topic anymore," she said.

Knoebel said she has two very close friends who have experienced infant deaths, and knows how much families cherish photos of their children lost too soon.

"What do they bring home from the hospital? Nothing. It helps the families dealing with this with their grieving," Knoebel said, "(Bereavement photographers) are helping so many people because they have that picture. They have something and it's beautiful photography."

Although Knoebel would like to help families by taking bereavement photos, she said she wants to wait until her children are older, her schedule is more flexible and more than anything, until she is emotionally prepared.

"I want to make sure I can do this and not be a blubbering mess and making it worse for this family that is already in pain," she said.

Knoebel said, for now, she will help by spreading the word to the community.

Sandy Puc, Charity Model Search creator and sponsor, has long believed charitable work is the backbone of the community. She created this fundraising contest to highlight excellence in the portrait photography industry as well as raise funds for NILMDTS, the organization she co-founded in 2005.

Participating photographers, like Knoebel, submit portraits of local kids to an international online voting gallery. For $49, participants will receive a 20-30 minute model session, one image uploaded to the international contest gallery and one Facebook image of the child.

"Part of the goal of this is to help studios gain more local business while helping a charity," Knoebel said.


Parents let friends and family know about the event and encourage them to vote for their child. Each vote costs $1, and all proceeds from votes benefit "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep." Finalists are determined by online votes, and all finalists move to an independent judging round.

In last year's family photo contest, one of Knoebel's clients from Minneapolis made it to the finalist level but did not win the grand prize.

Knoebel said she takes the contest seriously and hopes that all of her clients will excel in the competition.

"It's not only the cutest kid, but how well did I do photographically."

Knoebel said she never picks favorites and always tries to rally her clients to gain more votes and raise more money for the charitable cause. 


The grand prize international winner is determined from the 50 regional finalists. The winning child receives a $2,500 savings bond, a $2,500 travel package and a $100 Target gift card. The second and third place runner-ups each receive $500 savings bonds and a $100 Target gift card.

Winning photographers also receive prize packages.

The contest runs from January to March 31.

People who want to enter their kids, age birth to 18 years, may do so by calling Knoebel Photography at 715-749-3500.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048