Calendar girls spark controversy - and sales

Calendar Girls Donna Clarke, front, from left, Marguerite Cook, Linda Sidor, Eleanor Down, back from left, Karen Sisson, Anne Arnold, Lucy Dawson, Lois Tuffin and Cheryl Kelly gather for a photograph during the launch of the latest Calendar Girls Peterborough's Got Game on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012



PETERBOROUGH - There is nothing like a little controversy to stir-up the pre-Christmas calendar sales.

After a Toronto newspaper reported Monday that Homegrown Homes had received complaints about its fundraising calendar Peterborough's Got Game, which features scantily-clad (and in some cases completely nude) older women posing with strategically placed hockey equipment, the non-profit was flooded with support and online sales were expected to hit $2,000 on Monday alone.

"It has been an overwhelming response. Our online sales are just buzzing," said Donna Clarke, Miss October and the executive director of Homegrown Homes.

The Toronto Star article characterized Peterborough as a "conservative" community and suggested the social housing non-profit and the models who posed for the calendar were being "pilloried" for removing their clothes for a good cause.

But speaking to QMI Agency Monday, Clarke described a small, vocal element that has levelled a handful of anonymous complaints at volunteers or left a few messages on voicemail.

Some of the complaints called the calendar "disgusting" or "inappropriate" or "pornography," while others suggested the fundraising ploy was tantamount to "elder abuse," Clarke said. One complainer called the models "gay women posing" while another threatened to call the health unit because a model had posed nude on a Memorial Centre seat.

A board member fielded an anonymous call that said an unnamed priest was asking his parishioners to boycott the calendar, Clarke said.

"I'm not really sure what the issue is, it depends on who is speaking out against us," Clarke said.

It's unclear to Clarke why the calendar sparked such a response. Nude fundraising calendars of its template have been produced in communities across Canada for close to a decade.

"I'm delighted with the finished product. Initially, the comments didn't bother me because everybody has the right to their opinions. Now it's irking me. These people are not voicing an opinion, they are attacking," Clarke said. "When you do something like this you know there will be people who may be slightly offended by it. We didn't do it with the intent to offend. We did it to raise money for affordable housing."

The group hopes to sell as many as 3,000 calendars by New Year's Eve.

That would net Homegrown Homes about $45,000 towards the purchase of a new affordable housing duplex.

While the controversy might have caused a surge in sales, Clarke hopes it's the cause that will continue to motivate people to give.

"You can slam the calendar, but you can't slam the cause. Take a look at why we did this."

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