When this baby’s parents named her Hope, they had no idea she would come to be a symbol of just that for many in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Hope Chimeno was just 10 days old when she and her family boarded a rescue boat to escape the floodwaters surging through their hometown of Orange, Texas. Brothers Cris and Clint Sanford of the Cajun Navy whisked the Chimenos to safety in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Upon arrival, Katy Sanford, Cris’ wife, asked the family if they had taken newborn photos yet. Naturally, a photo shoot was the last thing on their minds — but Sanford insisted on connecting the Chimenos with her friend, photographer Noelle Mills.
“She texted me and asked if I would be willing to take pictures of the family,” Mills, 32, told TODAY. For Mills, herself a busy PR professional and mother of two, it was a no-brainer.
“I had to ask myself, ‘What’s most important right now? To give to this family who could have lost so much,'” Mills explained. “I don’t have a lot of time or money, but what I can give is my photography.”
Sanford arranged for the rescue boat and traditional life vests to be used as props, and the photo shoot took place on Labor Day.
“(Hope) was an angel,” said Mills. “I’ve done several newborn shoots, and it’s not easy because the child can be tiring, and you’re working hard to keep them still. … Here she was, outside, in a onesie, on a metal boat, in a life jacket, and she was wonderful. It was an extra treat.”
Mills’ sweet photos have spread quickly online. While she’s flattered by the response, she’s not surprised that the images have resonated with many.
“It’s a story of triumph,” said Mills. “In a heavy time, she’s a ray of sunshine.”
Oh, and there’s that perfect name. In fact, “the Hope effect” has become a running joke in the Chimeno family.
“They’ll just laugh and say, ‘It’s all Hope,'” said Mills of the support that the Chimenos have experienced post-Harvey. “It’s because of her that they were able to get on this boat and into a volunteer’s home. … She’s been their little rock star. She has brought so much hope.”
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