Burning desire to benefit | VailDaily.com

Burning desire to benefit

EAGLE COUNTY — Beefcake is good, but helping burn victims is better.

Two local firefighters auditioned to be part of this year's Colorado Firefighter Calendar, a fundraiser for the Children's Hospital Colorado Burn Center and other centers around Colorado.

We won't know until August whether Hannah Lodge from the Gypsum Fire Department and Chad Cristia from the Vail Fire Department made this year's calendar.

"I received a third degree burn on my wrist when he was 3 years old. I clearly remember the pain that went with it," Cristia said. "Being a firefighter and being in pretty good shape, I decided this would be a way to help others going through it."

Lodge said she's never done anything quite like this before, but is glad she did.

Among other things, the calendar money sends young burn victims to camp in Estes Park.

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"Each box of calendars you sell sends a kid to camp," Lodge said. "The goal was not the glitz and glamour. The goal is to sell these calendars. I'm competitive and my goal is to sell the most calendars."

Their stories are heartbreaking and inspiring, Lodge said.

"If you've heard some of these kids tell their stories, you understand that they don't feel normal. When they get to be around other kids going through the same thing, it makes them feel like they're not alone," Lodge said.

The cause is noble, of course, and audition night saw lots of glitz and glamour.

"Tickets for the audition sold for $700 to $800 and we sold more than 1,000 that night," Cristia said.

Twenty-eight firefighters from 18 departments auditioned. One ripped a phone book in half, one threw long-stemmed roses to the audience. Molly Meek from Denver's GQ Barber Lounge won the bidding to oil up the firefighters before they hit the stage, among them Vail's Cristia.

The calendar hotties will be at a debut party to sign their month.

Among the celebrity judges were Ryan and Trista Sutter. You'll recall that she was The Bachelorette on ABC's show of the same name, and Ryan bested a group of pretenders to win the fair Trista's hand.

They were married in 2003 and Ryan is now a lieutenant with the Vail Fire Department.

Eagle River's Jenny Klingmueller and Charlie Keller were on last year's calendar. Chip Carney, also with Eagle River, was on it the year before.

Cristia and Lodge would be the first from their departments.

The calendar was launched in 2011 to help burn victims and raise fire safety awareness. It's all volunteer and every dime goes to the program.

Firefighters from around the state volunteer time to raise funds, attend events, educate children on fire prevention and increase awareness for the Children's Hospital Colorado Burn Center and other centers around Colorado.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, and rwyrick@vaildaily.com