ARC models get red-carpet treatment at Bellingham party

Neva Hansen was born to walk the runway.

On Monday night, Dec. 1, Neva and her maroon dress lit up the crowd gathered at the Squalicum Boathouse during the Smiles of Life calendar release party for ARC of Whatcom County.

She’s Miss July in the 2015 wall calendar, and the 10-year-old’s firecracker personality showed in her runway walk and the zeal as she signed autographs.

She and the other 11 models who are members of ARC got the celebrity treatment, with lots of applause and photo snapping as they made their way down the red carpet.

Their challenges and most notably their loves and successes are included with each month’s black-and-white photos in the calendar. Neva not surprisingly enjoys singing and acting, is a cheerleader and has recently taken up hip-hop dancing.

ARC of Whatcom County works to improve the quality of life and increase the independence of people with developmental disabilities and special health-care needs. The calendar helps people understand more about others in their community, ARC Executive Director Beverly Porter said.

“For each individual who is nominated, it provides an opportunity for them to get recognized as a person, not as a person with a disability,” Porter said.

Photographer Laurie Winters captured the smiles of this year’s nominees. As Porter noted, people may have seen these models around town, wondered who they are and how they are doing. The calendar can help increase awareness and break down barriers.

“Every month you get a connection to another person,” Porter said.

The 1,000 calendars end up in offices, business and homes across the county. To get one, go online to arcwhatcom.org or call 360-715-0170. A $10 donation is requested.