Clothes off to charity
VAIL – “You’ve got a great ax,” he tells her.The anonymous woman blushes. The photographer captures her, in the buff, an ax precariously perched to cover her posterior.Why? She’s posing for the 2006 Vail UnDressed calendar. Who? Her identity, along with the rest of the models, will be kept hush hush until the “UnVailing” takes place. Women and men, old and young, hard bodies and, well, not so hard bodies have been taking it off for Vail UnDressed, a wildly successful fundraising project that helped put the Vail Valley Charitable Fund on the map, for five years now. Wednesday evening, many of the who’s who of the valley will attend the annual prelude to the ski season party to find out who has bared all. They’re not rich (well, not all of them), and they’re not famous (well, not usually.) They are neighbors, coworkers, friends and fellow Eagle Countians, and they are “Rescuers and Survivors.”
“We are always trying to think of a new theme,” said VVCF founder Rohn Robbins. “There’s a lot of people involved with rescuing in the valley – in the health industry, doctors, everybody at the Shaw Center, the Humane Society – a very good example is this rescue team for Michelle Vanek. If you think about it, it’s pretty broad. Add survivors on top of that – cancer survivors, disabled skiers – it’s a lot of people.” In the past, Vail UnDressed has featured world traveler Polly Letofsky, an advocate of breast cancer awareness, bouncing a globe and wearing only her red shoes; Eagle Valley Humane Society’s Char Quinn and Stephanie Samuelson wearing only puppies; and the men of Team Snowell, winners of the Town Race Series, with strategically placed ski gear. The local pictorial seems to perpetuate the notion that going nude for charity is acceptable. Celebrities get nekked for PETA. In the movie “Calendar Girls,” a group of middle-aged women decide to spice up their social club’s annual calendar with nude shots to raise money. But most often, the calendars have not thrived or survived; they’ve been one-hit wonders, Robbins says. What makes Vail UnDressed different?First of all, it’s a fairly libertine community, he says, with a kind of “live and let live” mentality.And people think Vail’s stuffy?Equally, this community never fails to come together for the sake of helping one another.
“There’s people here with staggering medical concerns and expenses,” said one of the calendar’s featured photographers, Peter Fredin. “It’s a fun way to help them out.”With the exception of actual production, Vail UnDressed comes together wholly by the efforts of tireless volunteers – especially the models. “We rarely ask anybody to pose,” Robbins said. “We get asked frankly.”Frustrated with being mistaken for other nonprofit organizations in the valley, Robbins and board member Kate Carey dreamed up Vail UnDressed to help set them apart.”It worked miraculously,” Robbins said. “I don’t think anybody doesn’t know who we are now.” The charitable fund functions on two levels. On a monthly basis it reviews and awards $15,000 in direct aid grants to individuals in need. The individual may be going through chemotherapy and can’t work and doesn’t have the money to afford groceries. The fund also serves as a platform for fundraising events, giving a half million dollars a year to benefits for specific individuals. With goals of tripling funds raised next year, Robbins hopes to be helping a lot more.
If all goes swimmingingly, Robbins says, the 2006 calendar will generate about $100,000.The board is toying around with the idea of “adventurers” for next year’s theme. In this county, that doesn’t seem to rule anyone out. For more information, call 328-1884 or visit vvcf.net. To order a 2006 UnDressed calendar, send a check for $20 to VVCF, P.O. 3861 Eagle, CO 81631. Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or email@example.com.
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VAIL — The lift operator in the maze at Vail Village’s Gondola One tilts his head back and hollers: “Masks up please!”