An aspiring wedding photographer suffered a “huge setback” after her mom accidentally donated her brand new $3,000 camera to Goodwill — sparking a huge campaign to get the camera back.
Kelsie Lee had spent “several years” saving up for her Canon R6 Mark II with dreams of using it to be a wedding, engagement, and elopement photographer.
After purchasing the camera, Lee was been enthusiastically taking photos of her friends and family. But this all came to a crashing halt after her mom unintentionally donated the R6 to a Goodwill store where it was purchased for just $70.
“I was using it to take some photos of my family and me before we went out to dinner,” Lee tells PetaPixel.
“I didn’t want to bring the camera inside of the restaurant at the risk of damaging it and I also was hesitant to leave it in the car because of possible theft.
“My dad and I thought it would be a good idea to hide the camera in a cardboard box in the back of my mom’s car — who was not at the dinner.”
Later, when Lee went to retrieve her camera from her mom’s car the “worst possible thing had happened” — the box and camera were gone.
“My mom had absolutely no idea my camera was in there and I had absolutely no idea that box was headed for Goodwill,” Lee explains.
“We went to Goodwill immediately after we realized what happened. Turns out we missed the camera by ONE hour!”
Lee says she was “crushed” when the manager broke the news, but it wasn’t the camera she was most upset about.
“I had spent several years saving up for a camera and dreamed about owning a professional camera to push the needle forward on my dream of working in the wedding/engagement/elopement photography and videography space,” she explains.
“It felt like such a huge setback, but it was truly the SD card that I was heartbroken about…The feeling of losing memories you’ve been collecting over a period of time is one I do not ever want to feel again.”
Do Your Thing TikTok
After losing her camera, Lee took to TikTok and in a heartbreaking post detailed what had just happened — she offered a $500 reward for the return of the R6.
Please tiktok do what you do best
The video racked up over one million views and sparked a wave of interest which ultimately led Lee to get her camera back.
“The incredible community that rallied behind my story on different social media platforms sent me so many leads,” Lee tells PetaPixel.
“It was overwhelming in the best possible way to have the support from complete strangers to help me get my camera back.”
Finding The Lost Camera
After some people had falsely claimed they had her camera, Lee received a message on Instagram from a couple who said that they had it.
“I was initially hesitant,” says Lee. “They sent me photos of the camera and I knew right away it was mine — I definitely blacked out for a second. I couldn’t believe it.”
@kelsierlee Replying to @Sarah ♬ original sound – kelsie
The kind-hearted couple drove two hours to return the camera and did not want the reward money, but Lee insisted that they were compensated plus gas money.
“This couple did not owe me anything, they bought the camera fair and square and chose to do something good because they are good,” says Lee. “They deserve every single ounce of good karma that is headed their way.”
The one caveat was that after the couple bought the camera they had cleared the SD card. But, Lee is working with an expert to restore her photos.
Lee does not hold her mom responsible in any way, adding: “It was entirely mine for putting my camera in a box in the back of her car without her knowing.”
In fact, Lee looks back at the entire episode with fondness. “Without it I would have never met the incredible couple that returned my camera,” she says.
“I never would have been able to connect with an entire community of people who were willing to help a complete stranger and together with that community, we were able to do something really freaking cool.”
It means the couple were left without a camera. But, there’s a final twist in that story too. Lee made another TikTok video urging Canon to provide a camera to them and the imaging giant received the message and is now finalizing details with the good-hearted couple.
“This whole event has changed my life, I am so grateful for everyone that helped me and the impact this was able to have,” adds Lee.
“People are so good, and sometimes the media is filled with negative news. It has been incredible to be a part of something good and shown over and over again how remarkable humans can be.”
Image credits: All photos by Kelsie Lee.