You don’t always have to save lives, fight bad guys, or wear a cape to be a hero. There is so much you can do to make this world a happier place. An act of kindness from an architect from Missouri is proving that to be completely true.

When in January, Brian Bononi was sent to a Portrait Innovations photo studio that had been closed due to bankruptcy in Kansas City to take measurements for a new leasing agent, he stumbled upon a huge pile of family portraits ready to be discarded. Instead of just doing his assigned job and leaving everything behind, he couldn’t get his mind off the families who would never get a chance to preserve their precious memories, so now Bononi is on a mission to get all the photos back to their rightful owners.

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Image credits: Portraits at Boardwalk

“My initial reaction was ‘that really stinks, all of these were never picked up, I can’t believe they are just left behind.’ As I continued on with the job, I kept glancing at the stack and felt a conflict within myself. I knew I had 2 options:

1. I could ignore these photos and go on, not my problem…. which would have been easy to do, since no one knew I would have even thought twice about it. And besides, I wasn’t looking to take on another project in my family’s busy schedules.

2. OR I could do something about it. I couldn’t escape the thought that these photos could potentially be some families’ first or last photos with/of their loved ones. I knew if these were one of my memories, wouldn’t I want someone to do what they could to help me?” said Brian Bononi.

Image credits: Portraits at Boardwalk

After Portrait Innovations closed more than 100 shops nationwide and shut down its website, customers were left in oblivion as to whether they would ever receive the portraits they had taken before the bankruptcy. Bononi then got permission from the landlord to rescue these portraits. The 39-year-old, with the help of his wife and four children, loaded all 167 abandoned portraits into a minivan and took them to their house to store while looking for the owners.

Image credits: Portraits at Boardwalk

The pile contained family photos, graduation and wedding pictures, and images of newborns—each one holding a special meaning to these people. This is why the Bononi family was determined to get as many of these canvases as possible back home where they belong, though the process was time-consuming. The family developed a system of arranging photos to make it easier to navigate. They alphabetized all the portraits and put them in a detailed spreadsheet with the available information—full names, phone numbers, e-mails. They started tracking down and contacting the potential owners to the point that Google assumed they were spamming people!

Image credits: bbononi

Since the Bononi family started their quest, they have been able to contact over 60 people and reunite more than 40 photos with families who never expected to see their photos’ canvases. Just recently, they created a Facebook page, Portraits at Boardwalk, to help spread the message with the hope that people whose names and contact information weren’t on the canvases will recognize themselves.

Image credits: Portraits at Boardwalk

“It’s an opportunity to extend love and hope within our community. We teach our kids that making a difference in our world is intentional and that no matter your age or how big or small the act may be, when you see an opportunity to help, YOU do it, and this was a great example to do just that!” said Bononi.

Jurgens Family and their reunited photo

Image credits: Portraits at Boardwalk

Jones Family and their reunited photo

Image credits: Portraits at Boardwalk

Martin Family and their reunited photo

Image credits: Portraits at Boardwalk

Ruffcorn Family and their reunited photo

Image credits: Portraits at Boardwalk