A GROUP of calendar girls have raised nearly £5,000 for charity after they became inspired to bare all by a Huntingdonshire teenager with a muscle-wasting condition.
The 11 girls from Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Norfolk initially thought they would only sell 50 copies of their Down on the Farm naked calendar in aid of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.
But the group, led by school sports coach Alex Paske of Thurning, have outstripped their wildest dreams by flogging 700 copies and exceeding their initial fundraising target by £2,000.
The friends, who have known each other since childhood and all come from farming backgrounds, were inspired to strip off to help muscular dystrophy sufferers such as Robert Elliott.
Nineteen-year-old Robert who lives in Sawtry, has lived with the condition since he was born. The degenerative disorder causes muscle weakness and can affect the legs, arms, as well as internal organs such as the lungs and heart, and the nerves which control the muscles.
Alex, 20, has known Robert all her life and two years ago held a harvest ball in his honour to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy.
She said: “He is very shy, which is why we decided not to do the calendar for Robert, but for Muscular Dystrophy. But I think he likes the calendar.
“Initially I thought we only needed 50 copies of the calendar, but we got a batch of 500 to start with and we have ordered another 250. It is amazing. I never envisioned it would do this well.
“There are 11 girls and we all go to different universities or work in different places, so the calendars have gone across the country. They have even gone international with a couple sent to New Zealand.”
The pictures were shot on farms in Thurning and Haddon by photographer Paul Coles over the August Bank Holiday. Mr Coles took the pictures free-of-charge and local businesses have also helped to sponsor production costs, so all proceeds go to charity.
Though for a good cause it took some persuading to get all of the models to go au naturel.
Emily Warrener, 19, from Alconbury, admitted she was hesitant at first.
“The first day that we had the photo shoot, it absolutely poured with rain, and it was grey and horrible.
“We turned up and everyone said ‘I’m not going to go first’ or ‘I’m not taking my clothes off.’ Then one of our friends just stripped off and said ‘Right, where do you want me?’
“By the end of the second day, we were all standing around naked.”
Annika Welman, 21, from Brington said: “We all had a real giggle modelling on the farm with not much on apart from our wellies.
“The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign is a great charity so I’m hoping that people buy our calendar.”
Charlotte Allen, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s volunteering fundraising manager for the West Midlands said: “This is one of the bravest fundraising efforts I’ve ever seen! The girls have done a fantastic job of putting this calendar together and they should be proud of raising so much to fund research into devastating muscle-wasting conditions.”
The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign funds research into treatments and cures, provides free practical and emotional support to sufferers and campaigns to raise awareness of the condition.
INFORMATION: The calendars cost £7 each (plus £2 P&P) and can be ordered by emailing email@example.com and paying through www.justgiving.com/paskey