Hometown Hero helps shine spotlight on disabilities, mental illness

Hometown Heroes

A fashion show held earlier this month featured models with developmental disabilities. Volunteer Fran Whitehurst is the one who puts it all together.

Music gets the Fairhaven Foundation dancing down the runway at the 4th annual Fashion Show Fundraiser. For one day, these models are the center of attention for all the right reasons.

Fran works all year to give them a day they won’t soon forget.

Director Linda Tiihonen doesn’t want us to forget how Fran helped make it happen.

“Fran has shown a heart for our folks, and has been very giving and wanting them to feel special,” she said. “The power of the fashion show is to give good self-esteem and positive body image.”

A year in planning, Fran does it for the smiles and hugs.

“I’m sorry, I’m a hugger. They are just like us. They are people and this is the day when they’re special,” she said.

This isn’t the only cause Fran works on during the year. She suffered a personal tragedy four and a half years ago when her husband, Steve, took his life.

“It is no different than a broken bone, diabetes and heart disease. It is your brain health and I am out there to spread the word, to talk about it, to help remove the stigma. Our Walk Out of the Darkness, we do every year. People walk in memory of loved ones and survivors as well.”

Last year, almost 45,000 Americans died of suicide. Fran feels her efforts are well worth it if just one person could be saved.

“My husband had bipolar disorder and we hid it,” she said. “We hid it for a long time because he didn’t want anybody to know. I don’t want anyone to have to walk in my shoes. And I know it’s going to happen but if I could help one person or two persons, it means the world to me.”

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