A group of women in their 60s decided to go full Monty to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The idea came from lifelong friends of Wendy Rauwerdink of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who had diagnosed with the disease. Her friends became engaged in the fight, always wanting to do more. As their friend’s condition worsened, the friends tried to show their love and support and raise awareness of ALS.
Their first idea was to participate in the ice bucket challenge, but it didn’t seem like a good fit for them. They decided instead to create an ALS awareness calendar, as one of the friends showed them a calendar featuring young models. “I bought the calendar with the young models and was going to give it to Wendy and say, ‘What a hoot!'” said Rauwerdink’s friend TC McCarty in an interview with the Sheboygan Press. “And on my way to her house, I thought, ‘We can do one better.'”
The 12 women had to face their own insecurities about their aging bodies, but their will to do something to raise awareness of ALS and help their friend, was stronger. They explained that Rauwerdink’s disease is often an inspiration, leading them to put their own lives in perspective.
And when their doubts kicked in, the ALS patient told them: “Just think about how I look. Look at me, look at me. Don’t worry about it.” Rauwerdink is now bedridden. She is tube-fed and on a ventilator, but she continues to be positive, as she has all her life, and had no problems having her picture taken and published in the newspaper.
“It’s hard for women our age to take it off,” McCarty said. “But everyone used Wendy’s words and why we were doing this as motivation.”
The ladies were inspired as well by the 2003 comedy Calendar Girls with Helen Mirren, which has the same purpose. It features naked middle-aged women raising awareness of a disease.
The photo shoot took place at Rauwerdink’s house, which was also a great motivator for the group, and they said the photographer made them feel comfortable, too.
Each of the ladies posed for an individual session where they were encouraged to use a favorite activity in the photos, allowing their own personalities to shine. The photographer, who prefers to remain anonymous, pushed for a simple and tasteful calendar. One woman posed with flower pots filled with geraniums to hide her private parts; another used a yoga ball.
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“I was skeptical at first and didn’t know if such a calendar was for us,” said friend Sandy Sachse. “But the more friends that said yes, the easier it was. We would do anything for Wendy and got our strength from one another.”
Rauwerdink also wanted to show her feelings about the gesture and wrote a touching letter to the calendar girls, which she was able to read out through her text-to-speech technology.
“I thought how amazing that after more than 40 years you would be willing to pose for pictures that I know some of you felt uncomfortable with for ALS,” the letter reads. “I could not be more thankful and I often cry just thinking about it. You are all the kindest women I know today.”
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