A scorching new calendar is on display at United Banks in Trempealeau County, and heating up the cover are the brave men and women of the county's 13 fire departments. As part of a Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of the Seven Rivers Region fundraising campaign, the 2013 calendar shows off the area's bravest in action. Cynthya Porter, BBBS Seven Rivers Region president, and professional photographer, spearheaded the project. She traveled the county in search of the perfect lighting and firefighters to demonstrate the example of heroism found throughout the departments.
Photos taken by Cynthya Porter
Firefighters from 13 Trempealeau County fire departments heat up the pages of the county-wide calendar that aims to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters Seven Rivers Region. Organization president and project spearhead Cynthya Porter crossed the county to capture each department's fiercest looks.
Trempealeau County and its fire departments have had a long-standing history of community involvement. For years, the departments and community members have supported one another in fundraising for worthy causes. This year, BBBS Seven Rivers Region wanted to highlight that involvement and increase fundraising in the county with a new approach.
“We were looking for a big fundraiser that would reach across the county and bring in more money to serve more families,” Porter explained. “The fire departments have been involved in the big Bowl for Kids Sake yearly fundraiser for a very long time. Even though this is a great event, it wasn’t bringing in enough money.”
Porter explained that more than 50 percent of the money utilized by BBBS Seven Rivers Region is raised through community support, not grants. After pitching the idea of a firefighters' calendar during a meeting with fire department officials in late spring, Porter was given the go-ahead. In July, she hit the road and traveled the length of the county capturing stunning images of firefighters battling controlled burns, standing near overturned cars, and showing off their brute strength.
“I saw every back road in Trempealeau County and I went to places that I’ve never even heard of before,” Porter said of the three-month-long photography adventure that took her from Winona to the northern tip of Trempealeau County, and everywhere in between. “By the time I shot the last department in October, I’d say I put in about 60 hours of driving.”
However, pre-production, Porter explained, consumed the majority of her time after returning home. She captured more than 4,000 shots and had to narrow it down to a select few.
“The photos had to be sorted and processed, then I had to crop them and develop them into the calendar layout,” she said. “I also collected the important dates in Trempealeau County and placed them throughout the calendar. Altogether, that took probably 130 hours.”
The completed product is a culmination of months of planning and photographing, and features the brave faces of real neighborhood heroes and heroines. While some departments took the traditional route of donning reflective, flame retardant uniforms, others took the opportunity to flash their muscles. The photos in the calendar demonstrate the pride each firefighter has for his or her job.
“I’m filled with a lot of respect for the firefighters that I worked with and I found them to be extremely good sports. It was just impressive,” she said. “I know for a lot of them it was difficult and took them out of their comfort zone. But, I’m grateful that they trusted me to make them look good."
The calendars are available for $15 at any United Bank in Trempealeau County with proceeds split between the BBBS Seven Rivers Region and the 13 fire departments.
“This was one of those projects that is a win for everyone,” Porter said. “It's a community building project and connects the firefighters to the people they serve. These men and women are real people heroes and they are dedicated to their jobs.”
BBBS Seven Rivers Region is a United Way member agency and brings life-changing friendships to children throughout the cities of Winona, La Crosse, Black River Falls, and Trempealeau County, and Vernon County.
For more information or to purchase the calendar online, visit the BBBS Seven Rivers Region website. http:/www.7riversbbbs.org/