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Sexy pin-up calendars produced by veterans in support of veterans? Talk about a Memorial Day celebration! Pin-Ups For Vets is a national non-profit organization founded by Gina Elise, a woman who has been keeping the art form that graced the noses of WWII era bombers alive for the last ten years. She began with a fundraising pin-up calendar in 2006 and raised over $5,000 for her local veterans hospital, Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, CA. The following year, supporters requested another calendar, this time raising $15,000 for more VA and military hospitals. Today, Pin-Ups For Vets is producing their tenth calendar and has donated over $50,000 worth of state-of-the-art rehab equipment for VA and Military hospitals nationwide.
Elise’s amorous fundraising calendar expanded into something remarkable; she and her team of “Pin-Up Ambassadors” are on a mission to tour all 50 states, comforting recovering veterans in hospitals and at home. “I think when we walk in it’s like a little piece of history walking into the room. Most times, the hospitals don’t tell them that we’re coming, so it’s a big surprise,” she says. “We get dressed up like 1940s pin-up girls and deliver the calendars and gifts of appreciation to the patients.” The Pin-Up Ambassadors visit active military bases and service members that are recovering from injury, too.
For the first time ever, the 2015 calendar features 12 veterans both male and female, and acts as a catalyst for female vets (now pin-ups!) to voice their stories. “Our model for April, Shannon, was a Naval Flight Surgeon, now she’s an ER doctor,” Elise says. “We’ve never had a doctor in the calendar before!” Miss July, Jovane Marie, went to Japan to pursue a modeling career before moving back to the United States and joining the Marine Corps.
The Pin-Up Ambassadors have visited the bedsides of over 7,000 men and women and help to create a donation that is more significant than money by incorporating the entire military community. On top of the burlesque shows that they perform at fundraisers the team gives makeovers to military wives and female vets. “We just pamper her for a day and turn her into a pin-up girl and do a photo shoot for her,” says Elise.
The entire experience, whether it is as a volunteer or a makeover winner, has proven to be highly therapeutic. “A lot of our volunteers are female veterans and they’ve developed such an amazing comradery,” Elise explains. “They have this whole support network now.”
The hospital visits have changed the lives of veterans indefinitely, “Years ago, we were visiting a mental ward and last year I received an email from one of the veterans there. He told me how much that one visit meant to him and now he’s in med school. He said it was because of us that he felt like a hero again. It was unbelievable.” During another visit to a VA hospital, Gina Elise spoke with a gentleman and delivered the calendar to him, “afterwards, the nursing staff rushed up to me to tell me that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury and that was the first time he had spoken in a month.”
Now for the burlesque shows, Pin-Ups For Vets hosts military fundraising events every year. The burlesque shows are a recent addition to the party, and this past January the crowd was lucky enough to get a dance from female vets. “None of them had ever done burlesque before but they felt really empowered and had so much fun learning the dance together. I honestly think it may have been the first female veteran burlesque troop in the history of the world.” Obviously, you want to check out the video, so click here.
52 VA hospitals in over half of the country have welcomed Pin-Ups For Vets thus far; their next visit will mark the 30th state to be graced by the gorgeous good girls. Various sponsors make their tour possible as the pin-ups continue to develop more initiatives in support of hospitalized Veterans and deployed troops. “We always want to know how we can better serve the military community,” says Elise. “They sacrifice so much for the greater good. I feel so lucky to be around such inspirational and resilient people.”