Thursday, January 8, 2009
Pin-up art — a morale-booster for troops fighting overseas during World War II — is making a comeback, or will be if a California woman has anything to say about it.
Gina Elise, 26, is bringing retro back with her third annual "Pin-Ups For Vets" calendar, which features herself in costumes and poses that were popular among America's fighting men in the 1940s. Profits from the sales of the calendars provide assistance to U.S. military hospitals.
“About two years ago I started hearing stories of wounded soldiers that were coming back to underfunded hospitals, so I just decided that I really wanted to do something to help out,” Elise told FOXNews.com. “I‘ve always been a huge fan of the pin-up era, so I figured I can sort of combine my love for this era to not only use the money for the hospitals but also help boost morale with the calendars themselves.”
The UCLA grad started spreading the word about the project in hopes of enlisting some help.
“Some people thought I was nuts," she said. "But I have a lot of friends that are artists and photographers and costume designers that actually donated their time and services. Wal-Mart also gave me a community grant to help get the project off the ground.”
And it soared right to the Web. At Pinupsforvets.com, with a donation of $22 or more, anyone can purchase a calendar for themselves, a hospitalized veteran or a deployed service member, along with a personal message of appreciation.
If the calendar is being sent overseas, Elise mails it in a care package. For those recovering in U.S. hospitals, she hand-delivers every calendar.
“I go there and I ask things like their name and their birthday and show them their birth month on the calendar. A lot of these veterans don’t get visitors, so to see their reaction when I show up is really rewarding,” she said.
“At one VA hospital in San Diego, I left the room after talking to a veteran and all the nurses rushed toward me saying they were in shock because he’d suffered a traumatic brain injury and that was the first time he’d spoken in a month!”
Loreleye Winn, Director of Voluntary Resources at San Diego’s Veterans Administration Hospital, recalled one of Elise’s visits.
“She was dressed like a '40s pin-up lady and she passed out some calendars to the patients and went around to their bedsides,” Winn said. “They really enjoyed it and it just was a pleasure to have someone come in and visit.”
Winn isn’t the only one singing "Pin-Ups'" praises.
“There have been five flags flown over military bases in Iraq in honor of the project, and I also received the 2007 California Junior Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Young Californian award,” Elise said.
Thus far, “Pin-Ups for Vets” has raised $20,000, with proceeds from 2007 going to Loma Linda VA Hospital in Loma Linda, Calif., and proceeds from 2008 awarded to San Diego’s Naval Medical Center.
And Elise says she gets back more than she gives.
“It’s really inspiring when you are going into these hospitals, especially Walter Reed, where they have the most severe cases, and you’re seeing double amputees, triple amputees, people with severe illnesses, and yet they’re still so strong,” she said. “They’re some of the bravest people I’ve ever met.”