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Monday, May 12, 2008

Ladies of the Lake!

The serious business of lake-water protection took a cheeky turn in a remote section of Simcoe County this week.

Under a sunless sky, a caravan of women wearing little else but bathrobes and rubber boots tromped into the woods at Orillia’s Scout Valley nature park for a revealing photo shoot.

It would be the last in a series of nudes to be featured in a fundraising calendar supporting the health and welfare of Lake Simcoe.

“It is a wonderful, liberating experience,” declared a still-clothed Margaret Hyvarinen moments before trudging into the bush where a professional photographer awaited. “I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

It was the Georgina woman’s second time in front of the lens, having posed for the inaugural Ladies of the Lake calendar in 2006.

“I was the lady on the dog sled,” she said of the frigid February photo session.

Innisfil’s Mary Jane Brinkos, rain boots peeking out from beneath a red robe, concurred with the sense of liberation. “And you are trying to save the environment.”

Others came to cheer on those going in front of the lens.

“The first time you drop your towel is a little hard,” remarked Keswick’s Martine Evans, formerly Miss June 2006. “But you realize you are doing it for a good cause, and it becomes easy.”

The non-profit group sold 12,000 copies of the original calendar and raised $250,000 to raise awareness of the environmental challenges facing Lake Simcoe.

“We were completely blown away,” calendar co-founder Jane Meredith said of the response.

Retailers happily offered the eye-catching publication for sale while sponsors jumped on board with additional support.

The group is aiming to raise an equal amount when it releases its 2009 calendar in July.

Reporters were invited to view portions of the yet-to-be produced publication, which will reflect the aboriginal message of hope and guidance.

In one scene, a cross-country skier strides bare-skinned across a snow-draped landscape in backpack, gloves, and boots.

In another, the sun-kissed subject reclines on a hefty willow branch overhanging the lake.

The images are shot with an eye toward the tasteful rather than the titillating and are meant to complement nature’s beauty, organizers said.

In the two years that have passed since the initial calendar’s release, federal and provincial governments have stepped forward with commitments of support for the widely-used lake, Meredith noted.

“We can’t take all the credit, because there are a lot of people who have the lake in their minds,” she added. “But truly we have made a huge contribution to the awareness of the lake.”


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