By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Although 2011 is still four month away, the Morinville Fire Department is getting set to launch next year’s Fire Within calendar. And while monies raised from the annual fundraiser help provide the department with the training and equipment they need to swing into action, Morinville Fire Chief Ron Cust said this year’s calendar shows some of that action above the dates.
“They have a great tone to them this year,” Cust said. “Instead of having firefighters from different communities from throughout North America, they’ve gone into a format where it’s key firefighter scenes. So you see some real intense photos of firefighters working the scenes, working the fires, close ups of them. You can see the sweat and the water dripping off their faces. I think the people will really enjoy this year.”
Photos for this year’s calendar were taken by professional photographer Charles Hope, and this year’s calendar features Morinville firefighters on the cover and a number of interior shots.
Cust said the calendars have arrived and will be going on sale in the next week or so. However, the main blitz will be at the beginning of October just before Fire Prevention Week when Morinville firefighters will take to a roof top in town to spend 30 hours raising awareness about what they do and selling some calendars to help them do it.
But while approximately a third of calendar proceeds will be used to help with the development of the department’s training facility, the remainder will be used to support other worthy causes. As in previous years, a portion of calendar proceeds as well as all proceeds from hamburger sales during the department’s roof sit will be used to fund a burn treatment camp. However, this year a portion of the money will be donated to Sonny Davis’ Marathon of Freedom.
Davis, a para-athlete from Edmonton, is currently on a cross-country journey in his wheelchair to raise money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy. Davis’ initiative has been strongly supported locally by the Morinville Fire Department and Smith Music.
Chief Cust said the price of the calendars is once again set at $20, the same as the calendars currently being sold by STARS Air Ambulance. However, the chief does not see the two calendars as competing with one another. Rather, he sees the two as complimentary products.
“The two calendars are different formats, but they’re for two different reasons – yet, they’re for the same cause,” Cust said. “They’re supporting keeping the chopper in the air. They also support a number of non-profit groups, which included us. We’ve received funds from them to support our rescue program.”
For Cust, there is a solid belief that whichever calendar a person chooses to buy; they are helping the same cause, a cause dedicated to saving lives.
“If a person chooses STARS’ or chooses ours, we don’t care, Cust said. “You’re choosing to support the same chain of survival. If you say, ‘Oh well, I can only afford one calendar, I’m going to buy STARS,’ we think that’s a great idea because you’re still supporting us. It’s certainly not a competition.”
But while the department is happy no matter what calendar someone buys, they will be ascending the roof tops in October calling out with the bull horn to encourage people to buy a calendar or a burger.
In addition to the roof sit sales, Morinville firefighters will be selling door to door, something Cust said is an opportunity for his firefighters to get to know the community and an opportunity for the community to get to know his firefighters. Cust said he believes it is important for residents, particularly children to meet firefighters.
“The kid can say, ‘Oh, look a firefighter,’” Cust said. “Now if a firefighter shows up in an emergency, they’re not scared.”
The fire chief said Fire Within is far more than merely the name of the annual calendar. The North American organization is an organization run by firefighters for firefighters that seeks to provide volunteer fire departments with training and equipment they might not otherwise have access to. More than $2.6 million has been raised through calendar sales since 2005, and an additional $1 million has been donated for equipment through the support of the program’s sponsors.
“This is part of what has continued to be a fundraiser to support volunteer fire departments throughout Canada and – now – North America,” Cust said, adding the Fire Within program has worked its way down into the Pennsylvania area. “Fire Within is about volunteers. It’s about taking care of the firefighters themselves. It’s so much more than the calendars we’re selling. We’re part of a really large foundation.”