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Corvettes, camera clicks, and a calendar

Marian Center clients produce, star as models in Corvette-themed calendar project

MIAMI GARDENS | At the Marian Center School in Miami Gardens, creativity is always zooming in and out of classrooms. This summer and fall, it quite literally zoomed into campus on a fleet of Chevrolet Corvettes, courtesy of the Sunshine Corvette Club.

The cars were borrowed for a calendar photoshoot modeled, photographed, and edited by the Marian Center’s adult clients. The funds raised by the calendar will benefit their school, which serves students with developmental disabilities.

“It was a complete adventure from start to finish,” said Maite Roca, art coordinator at the Marian Center, who supervised the 33 photo shoots that began in July and ended in October.

Breakfast at Tiffany's, anyone? Anna Ramos channels Audrey Hepburn in front of a bright red 1992 C4 owned by Diane Preuss. Photos of Ramos and this vehicle were taken by Gary Okoner, assisted by Michael Philippou with Jesse Stone consulting, and will be featured in the July 2025 pages of the Marian Center Corvette Calendar.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Breakfast at Tiffany's, anyone? Anna Ramos channels Audrey Hepburn in front of a bright red 1992 C4 owned by Diane Preuss. Photos of Ramos and this vehicle were taken by Gary Okoner, assisted by Michael Philippou with Jesse Stone consulting, and will be featured in the July 2025 pages of the Marian Center Corvette Calendar.

Laurel Miller is classy alongside a 1978 C3 Indy Pace Car in black and silver owned by Pat Carnevale. Photos of Miller and this vehicle were taken by Steve Williams, assisted by Jamie Bloom, for the January 2024 pages of the Marian Center Corvette Calendar.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Laurel Miller is classy alongside a 1978 C3 Indy Pace Car in black and silver owned by Pat Carnevale. Photos of Miller and this vehicle were taken by Steve Williams, assisted by Jamie Bloom, for the January 2024 pages of the Marian Center Corvette Calendar.

Nicole Vitale has a need for speed behind the wheel of a 1962 C1 in guards red, owned by Frank Jacobs, and featured in August 2025 of the Marian Center Corvette calendar. The photo was taken by Gary Okoner, assisted by Stephen Volpe.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Nicole Vitale has a need for speed behind the wheel of a 1962 C1 in guards red, owned by Frank Jacobs, and featured in August 2025 of the Marian Center Corvette calendar. The photo was taken by Gary Okoner, assisted by Stephen Volpe.

The idea came from Roca and the Fox Scouts, the Marian Center’s equivalent of Boy Scouts, who were looking to do something automotive related. Cliff Gibson, whose son, Scott, attends the Marian Center Adult Day Training program, suggested the group collaborate with the Sunshine Corvette Club, where he is a member.

“We thought maybe we ought to do a fundraising calendar. And the snowball was heading down the mountain from there,” said Gibson, who serves as treasurer of the Marian Center Action Team.

Via email, Gibson reached out to the Corvette Club asking for participants in a 12-month calendar shoot.

“There are eight generations of Corvettes,” he explained. “The idea was we wanted one for each generation for sure to be in the calendar, and then we’d fill in with some other ones that the Fox Scouts picked.”

Within three days of his request, 49 members replied, volunteering their vehicles. The Fox Scouts had such a gallery of Corvettes that it was a challenge to pick only 12. So Gibson suggested a 24-month calendar instead.

The two-year Marian Center Corvette Calendar became a reality with 28 cars and a team of 77, of which 39 were Marian Center students who served as models, photographers, assistants, and editors. Four Sisters of St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo who work at the Marian Center also were involved, along with three volunteers, 28 Corvette owners, MCAT President Toni Acocella, Gibson and Roca.

“Now when we started thinking about a 24-month calendar, we weren’t planning that we were going to be taking pictures in July, August, September, and October, on days that felt like 114 degrees,” said Gibson.

They decided to double up clients for the shoots to prevent prolonged exposure to the extreme temperatures, shooting two to three cars per week in recognizable areas within the Marian Center campus, with only one shoot shot off campus at the home of a Corvette owner.

Ready for a drive through Daytona Beach is Veronica Curbelo, who modeled with a 2017 C7 Grand Sport in Long Beach Red, owned by Galo Menendez. The picture was taken by Gary Okoner, assisted by Quincy Jacob, and featured for the month of February 2025 in the Marian Center Corvette Calendar.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Ready for a drive through Daytona Beach is Veronica Curbelo, who modeled with a 2017 C7 Grand Sport in Long Beach Red, owned by Galo Menendez. The picture was taken by Gary Okoner, assisted by Quincy Jacob, and featured for the month of February 2025 in the Marian Center Corvette Calendar.

Joel Morales and Anna Santos high-five in their photo shoot with a 1993 C4 ZR1 in Polo Green II Metallic, owned by Guy Lewis. In their hands are small scale models of that exact car. Photos of Joel and Anna and this vehicle were taken by Amanda Lambert, assisted by Octavis Williams, for the August 2024 pages of the Marian Center Corvette Calendar.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Joel Morales and Anna Santos high-five in their photo shoot with a 1993 C4 ZR1 in Polo Green II Metallic, owned by Guy Lewis. In their hands are small scale models of that exact car. Photos of Joel and Anna and this vehicle were taken by Amanda Lambert, assisted by Octavis Williams, for the August 2024 pages of the Marian Center Corvette Calendar.

The models for each shoot could select which car they wanted to pose with, and the wardrobe team helped them match colors and fashion of the era to that of their Corvette. The looks ranged in style from Anna Ramos in a black dress, pearls, and glasses channeling Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to Sara Fogarty wearing a pink and white polka-dot dress vibing an early 1960s dame (white gloves a must); from Daytona beach hat-wearing bombshell Veronica Curbelo to James Bond girl Rebecca De Giacomo in a long black and rhinestone dress.

With the special needs community, Roca explained, “You don’t know what’s going through their minds. It’s amazing because some clients are nonverbal. But you see them light up, they transform — I still get goosebumps. It’s emotional to watch because they come in, they get their hair done and their moms get all excited.”

The models also created vision boards from clipped magazine car ads to help them express how they wanted to pose.

Amanda Lambert, 32, did some modeling as a child, so she felt at home posing in a long black gown alongside her friend Cameron Honey, both in front of a 1993 ruby red C4 40th anniversary model owned by Ted Kammire.

“I really liked modeling,” said Lambert, who leads the Marian Center’s Multimedia Club, whose members shot and edited photos for the calendar.

With a newfound enthusiasm for photography, she also felt at home behind the camera, shooting Shanece Joseph in Tom Taylor’s 1979 C3 light blue Corvette.

And when the cameras start shooting, “It’s their show. We don’t tell them, ‘Do this or do that.’ It’s ‘You do whatever you want,’” said Roca.

“The real answer is to be creative and bring your creation to life,” said Rakeem Whyce, 35, a Marian Center client who worked as a photographer in the shoot. “Let your imagination get out because once you keep it in, you forget all about it. That’s why it’s so good to let it out sometimes.”  

Because Whyce has limited mobility, the producers acquired special equipment that enabled him to hit the camera shutter during his shoot with MCAT President Acocella who modeled with a bright metallic aqua 1992 C4, owned by Gibson.

“He was amazing. We wrapped up the last shoot with him,” said Roca.

In postproduction, the challenge, again, was to choose from all the photos.

“It was hard to pick the ones that went in the calendar because there were so many,” said Roca.

Instead of one photo per calendar month, they decided on four to eight photos of each car per month, with one of the photos including the vehicle’s owner. Creative cropping also came in to play, removing and replacing stained glass in one set of photos, and in another, cropping out an assistant who was pulling on a scarf to make it look like it was blowing in the wind.

A total of 500 calendars were printed, with an additional 55 given as gifts.

“Yes, it is a fundraiser, we always need funds. But what happened during this? You can’t predict it. The opportunity and the excitement for them. We dropped cameras, we broke lenses. Even a Corvette broke down. But you know what? It was all worth it at the end. Even if we didn’t sell them, it would still be the greatest thing,” said Roca.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Whyce.

FIND OUT MORE

  • The Marian Center is a fully accredited school for students with developmental disabilities between the ages of 6-21, and also offers an Adult Day Training and Work Program, as well as a full-time residential cottage for women.
  • Those interested in purchasing a calendar can email [email protected]for more information.
  • To learn more about the Marian Center School, visit www.mariancenterschool.org or call 305-625-8354.
  • The Sunshine Corvette Club is a non-profit organization devoted to the Corvette automobile and its enjoyment. Club members participate in a variety of community events, including restoration, parades, car shows, track driving, and car cruising. To learn more, visit www.sunshinecorvetteclub.com.

Comments from readers

Sister Lidia Valli - 12/07/2023 11:53 AM
At the Marian Center we are so proud of this project and very grateful for all the work that was done in order to realize it. The adults were all excited and engaged. The volunteers all gracious and helpful. Mrs. Roca helped to bring out the best in everyone and Mr. Gibson not only directed the project, but planned it with attention, love and dedication. At the Marian Center, together we can. Sister Lidia