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Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Zipperstrong Project?

Through The Zipperstrong Project, Winchester Photographer SheRae Hunter helps raise awareness of Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). Her powerful images capture the strength and vitality of CHD children, while helping families see just how proud their children are to simply be themselves, scars and all. This project also honors the stories of CHD warriors gone too soon; loved and missed everyday.


“I can try to see these children how their parents see them — fragile and scarred, but brave and mighty. Broken, but perfect,” Hunter wrote on her website. “This project is my humble and sincere attempt not only to understand the world of these families and children, but to give you a glimpse into their world, that you might seek to understand as well.”  

Zipperstrong is proud to collaborate with Conquering CHD Virginia (CCHD-VA) to bring this unique awareness campaign to Virginia and beyond!

Who can participate?


The Zipperstrong Children's Photoshoot is designed to feature CHD children ages infant to 15-years-old, including CHD survivors and those carried in the hearts of their loved ones. 

CHD families and patients across Virginia (and nearby regions) are invited register to attend this complimentary Zipperstrong portrait session.

I’m an adult with CHD, can I participate in Zipperstrong?


In the past, we have photographed adult CHD warriors with their CHD child. If this fits you, please register.


Our goal is to host a dedicated a Zipperstrong photoshoot for CHD Warriors ages 16 through adult. If you know of a photographer who is interested in getting involved, please contact us at

The Teens/ Adults photoshoot will be designed to capture the story and bring CHD awareness of those living with congenital heart defects into adulthood as well as honor the bereaved families who would like to participate in memory of their teen/adult. 

If my CHD Warrior has passed away, can I still participate in Zipperstrong?


Yes, absolutely.

Pregnancy - age 15: Please bring a favorite color or black and white 8x10 portrait of your heart warrior (or a pregnancy portrait if your loss was early). Zipperstrong will provide the picture frame. Siblings, parents' hands, or another child of your choosing can be in the frame with the 8x10 photograph. 

What if my child/I do not have a “zipper” scar?


No problem! We know not all heart warriors have “zipper” scars running down their chests. Children, teens and adults whose CHD has not required surgical intervention are all part of the CHD story and we encourage their participation to help create a fuller picture of CHD for the awareness campaign.

My family has participated in Zipperstrong in the past, can we partake in this photo session?

Alumni families are always welcome. However, due to COVID-19, we are only able to do 10 sessions this year. We know Zipperstrong sessions are popular. To keep things fair, we will fill those slots based on a lottery system and new families will be given preference.

How does the lottery work? How will I know if my heart warrior has been chosen?

Registration will close on November 12th. The Zipperstrong team will divide registrants into categories based on care center, new families, bereaved families, etc. Slots will be chosen at random within certain categories: at least two per center (based on registration numbers), two slots will be reserved for bereaved families (based on registration numbers). Slots will be filled by new families first, then alumni. We will aim to be regionally representative as well. 


Chosen families will be notified once the lottery is complete. These families will then be given a specific time slot and must confirm their attendance on or before November 20th. If they are unable to commit, we will move to the next in line. Once all time slots are full, we will notify all other registrants of their status. We hope to have all slots full and families notified before the Thanksgiving holiday.

What safety precautions will you be taking as a result of COVID-19?

We know this is still a challenging time for everyone and our heart warriors are especially vulnerable to coronavirus and other illness. Please know we cannot eliminate all risk, but we will try our best. To keep everyone as safe as possible, we have put the following process in place, in accordance with CDC guidelines:


  • For the safety of your family, our families, and all other participants, if you are feeling ill on the day of the photoshoot (any cold symptoms, fevers, or chest pain, etc.), please do not attend. We will do the same.

  • Only one parent/chaperone should attend the photo shoot with their child. Please find care for additional children younger than 9 not being photographed. This will help avoid unnecessary crowding and allow us to remain socially distant.

  • Unlike years past, no crafts or food will be hosted on the premise. 

  • When entering the studio, please sanitize your hands. We will have supplies on hand. 

  • All adults and older children (not being photographed) must wear a mask at all times during the shoot, regardless of vaccination status, and to the extent possible, children. CCHD-VA and Zipperstrong staff attending as well as the photographer are fully vaccinated and will be wearing masks at all times.

  • Adults and children in the studio should stay at least six feet apart from one another during the session (unless being photographed or assisting). 

  • Frequent sanitizing and disinfecting of all props and general area between sessions.

  • Only one family will be in the studio at a time. Please wait in your car until your session time. We will call/text you when it is your turn. This will help us keep to social distancing requirements and ensure the space is sanitized for your session.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at

What do participants need to wear for the photo session?


Children through age 15: Please dress your child in blue jeans.


If your child is three or younger, or if you have a boy, Zipperstrong images will be taken without a shirt.


If your child is a girl over three years old, she will need to have a solid black one piece swimsuit, gymnastics leotard, or tight-fitting black spaghetti strap or scoop neck top (no graphics or designs, just solid black).


Bereaved families: Please have the person holding the photo wear a plain black shirt (no graphics) and jeans.


Where is the event? When does my family need to arrive? 

The event will take place at SheRae Hunter’s photography studio in Winchester. The address will be emailed to participants ahead of the event. 


Each session should take about 10 minutes. Please try to arrive 15 mins before your scheduled time, but remain outside or in your car until we call/text you. This will help us keep to social distancing requirements and ensure the space is sanitized for your session.


Where will my child’s image be used?


Zipperstrong’s goal first and foremost is to spread CHD Awareness. Zipperstrong plans to do this in a few ways:

  • Dedicated Zipperstrong Project web page (View The Zipperstrong Project 2021)

  • Media Coverage: Local and national media outlets in the past have covered the Zipperstrong Project. 

  • Social Media: Imagery, along with personal stories, may be shared social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Look for these posts all throughout February, Heart Awareness Month!

  • Special Events & Community Displays: Zipperstrong portraits will be on display at participating hospital centers and have been featured at the Hope Marietta Foundation’s Casino Night.

Participants must sign a photo release form. The form will be e-mailed to registered families before the event to be filled out and brought to the photo session.

Will I receive any prints?

Families will receive two complimentary 5 x 7 prints. Families wanting to purchase additional prints directly from SheRae, or schedule a private family portrait session can contact her directly for more information:

How do I register for the Zipperstrong Project 2022 photoshoots?

The registration form can be found here.

When will the next Zipperstrong photoshoot be scheduled?

This is the only scheduled photoshoot for the Zipperstrong Project to be released in February 2022. For information about Zipperstrong 2022 or to be added to the Zipperstrong contact list, please e-mail

Families interested in hiring SheRae for a private family portrait session can contact her directly for more information about photo packages, rates, and availability:

What is Conquering CHD Virginia (CCHD - VA)?

CCHD -VA exists to conquer the most common birth defect. They create visibility and empower all impacted by CHD. They accomplish their mission through awareness, knowledge, community, and research.

To learn more, visit

If you have any questions that were not addressed here, please email

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