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Island firemen donating all calendar proceeds to charity

By Staff | Nov 24, 2009

Throw away those wish lists and forget about buying your loved ones a mini-laptop or hand-held entertainment device. The hottest gift to give this holiday season may be the 2010 Sanibel Fire Rescue District calendar.

Packed with 13 months worth of the island’s bravest, bare-chested firefighters, the idea to produce a calendar – with 100 percent of the proceeds going to charity – came from John DeMaria, a firefighter/EMT stationed on Sanibel for the past two years.

“When we started the project in January, most of us wanted to lose some weight and get in shape before we took the pictures,” he said. “We all worked together to do it. I lost between 15 and 20 pounds. When you see somebody eating right or exercising, that’s a great motivator.”

Between the beginning of 2009 and June, the firefighters – who “moonlighted” as models – lost 273 pounds collectively. The top individual weigh loss was 44 pounds, achieved by Capt. Tom Tracy.

“I think I’ve put on about 10 pounds since then,” Tracy said with a laugh. “But I know I’m gonna be in much better shape when we do next year’s calendar.”

According to Training Officer Tim Barrett, the photo shoot for the calendar took place at various island locations over two days. The photography, completed Luis Alfonso – DeMaria’s father-in-law – features images of the firefighters at Station #1, at the Sanibel Lighthouse, the City Boat Ramp and the Sanibel Fishing Pier.

“I was the last one to sign up, so I think that’s why they put me on the first page,” said Barrett, who appears as Mr. December 2009. “I’m glad we all lost weight because I knew there were gonna be a lot of my family, friends and strangers looking at it.”

Ron Ritchie, who dropped 32 pounds before posing as Mr. September, stated that he was most proud of being the oldest – at age 52 – beefcake model amongst the group.

“I just had to show these young bucks how it’s done,” said Ritchie, who wanted to appear in September as a tribute to firefighters lost on 9/11.

“We all made a commitment to get into shape for this. We kinda broke down those macho barriers and helped each other out,” noted Tim Hanahan, Mr. July. “I hope the calendar is going to be a great benefit to the organizations we’re supporting.”

Last Thursday, eight of the 13 firemen sat down to partake in what has become one of their favorite tasks: signing autographs. Since the calendar was released two weeks ago, requests to have each man affix their signature to their photograph have been coming in at a steady pace.

“We got about 20 orders in today. Every day we get about three or four,” added Barrett, who estimated that calendar sales thus far have raised more than $3,000 for charity.

“Every penny of it goes to CROW and March Of Dimes,” said Chris “Action” Jackson, who appears in August. “And we’re splitting it evenly – 50/50.”

DeMaria said that next year, the district will select different island charities to support through calendar sales. As for who will appear in the 2011 edition, nobody knows who will want to model again… or for the first time.

“It was a lot of fun,” explained John Murray, Mr. November. “We were all playing around during the photo shoot. It was great for camaraderie.”

The 2010 Sanibel Fire Rescue District calendar is on sale for $10 each, and available at Fire Station #1 (2351 Palm Ridge Road) as well as at Bank Of The Islands, Bailey’s General Store and Barrier Island Title. The firefighters will autograph the calendars for free upon request; stop by in person or call 472-5525 to make arrangements.

“It’s been a great experience,” said John Reitenbach, Mr. June. “I did my photo shoot at the Fishing Pier. There were a lot of onlookers… some ladies that were fishing that day got a real kick out of it.”