Male and female firefighters from Sidney, North Saanich and Central Saanich did something familiar Sunday evening: they posed for a calendar.
But they were not the main object of attention. The real focus fell instead on all the creatures great and small that posed with them for the Balfour’s Friends Foundation annual fundraiser, which is continuing its tradition of helping low-income people with veterinary care costs.
Stephanie Munkley, foundation president, said this year’s calendar, which began in 2012, marks a distinct departure from previous ones.
“We wanted to go for the ah-factor and the cute factor,” she said. “I think people just love to see animals in pictures. So we have gone away from the beefcake calendar.”
The format reflects the mandate of the calendar project to raise funds to help those struggling to pay vet bills, she said. In the past, the group has helped people on a disability pension, veterans or students among others.
Annual calendar sales have raised about $32,000 over the years.
“It’s quite significant,” Munkley said. “It’s one of our biggest fundraisers.”
People from all walks of life purchase them, she added, some for the firefighters, but mostly for the animals.
Regardless of the motivation for giving, the money makes a significant difference for the animals and their human companions, saving and enriching countless lives along the way.
Animals can mean the world to individuals receiving assistance, Munkley said.
“For the mental and physical well-being of so many people, these animals keep them going,” she said. “Some of these people have absolutely nobody in their lives except for their animals, and without our assistance these animals would be surrendered or euthanized or they would just die.”
Over the years, the calendar shoot has featured a wide range of animals from familiar house to farm animals to more exotic ones. While many of the animals are house pets or working farm animals, some have an unusual history. The first calendar featured a dog that firefighters rescued from a house fire.
“And I know a year ago, Sidney fire rescued a hamster from a bad fire in Sidney,” said Munkley. “I was actually the paramedic on scene. Unfortunately, the hamster passed away, not because of the fire, but of natural causes.”
Munkley hopes to make the 2022 calendar available for sale in early October, with copies available at veterinary clinics in Sidney and Central Saanich, plus other locations.
For more information, to order calendars or learn how to apply for financial assistance through the foundation, visit www.balfoursfriends.com.
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