In 2003, the heartwarming movie Calendar Girls premiered. It was based on the true story of a group of middle-aged Yorkshire women who teamed up to create a sexy calendar to raise money for blood cancer research after one of their husbands died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
This British ensemble comedy, headed by Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, became a major success, both commercially and critically, and garnered numerous award nominations. More than that, it became the inspiration for a Tennessee mother whose son was fighting brain cancer.
In real life, the Yorkshire calendar had raised over $5 million to help fund the Leukemia Research Unit at the University of York, a teaching hospital. Connie Maynord, a model and actress based in Hendersonville, Tennessee, decided she wanted to embark on a similar project in 2020 after her son Matthew Barnes was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“I began creating this calendar to keep my sanity,” explained Maynord.
A year later, Barnes lost his battle, and Maynord said she “shut down” for a time after the “unbearable loss.”
As Maynord grew stronger – she credits her faith and the love of her family and friends for that – the calendar became a way for her to honor her son. “This project brought me out of a dark time in my life and gave me the courage to get back in and do the things I enjoy and love,” said Maynord.
She hoped the calendar project would not only help her cope with her grief over the death of her son, but also make a positive impact in the Iives of others, including that of her friend, Sue, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer.
“I recall all the out-of-pocket needs that insurance doesn’t cover from my son’s battle,” Maynord noted.
Through this unique and empowering project, Maynord aims to celebrate the beauty, strength, and resilience of mature women while raising funds and awareness for a cause close to her heart.
For the project, Maynord said she “recruited” 11 local friends and acquaintances ranging in age from 45 to 80. Maynord rounds out the year and is the face of May, a month she chose in honor of her late son’s birthday.
“I wanted women who led exciting lives and had interesting careers and hobbies,” she said. “At our ages we’ve gone through and experienced so much and these ladies have something to give back.”
One notable exception (to the age range) among the participants is the 29-year-old daughter of one of the women who is a powerlifter and professional wrestler.
“Melody has a story to tell, too,” her mom, Deborah, told Maynord.
All the photos were taken by Dan Holland, a local photographer, who has worked with Maynord over the years. Holland photographed the women in picturesque Sumner County (17 miles north of Nashville) locations which include Old Hickory Lake, Music City/Sumner Airport, TGL Farms, Ernst’s Car Museum, Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center, and the Bethpage Horse Barn.
And the calendars were printed by DoDat, a printing company in Hendersonville. By keeping it local, Maynord said she “wanted to give back to everyone who gave to me” during her personal tragedy.
In a world saturated with calendars featuring airbrushed and unrealistic images, the 2024 Sweet & Sassy Pin Up Gals Cancer Charity Calendar stands out for its authenticity and empowerment. It not only showcases the beauty and vitality of mature women but also but also aims to challenge societal stereotypes about age and beauty.
To that end, Maynord hopes the calendar might further “open their word and lead to other modeling experiences and more.”
Each month the featured model is dressed to represent her past or present career or hobby. All the women, however, are wearing red shoes, red lipstick and nail polish, Sue’s favorite color, and sporting red wristbands with the words No One Fights Alone.
Melody Watsonis a second-degree black belt in Wado-Ryu Karate-do and has trained in Choong Sil Taekwondo and boxing. She is also a Women’s Physique Bodybuilder, professional wrestler, and a powerlifter, who has set state and national records for her weight class in the bench press. Watson, a part-time model and actress, has appeared in music videos and television commercials.
Olivia Haley is an actress model, and motivational speaker, who has graced the pages of print, appeared in television commercials, and done voiceovers. The former Ms. Tennessee Senior America titleholder went on to represent Tennessee nationally. In 2008, she was crowned Ms. Senior America 2008, becoming the first-ever winner from Tennessee.
Norma Tillman spent over a decade working in law enforcement before becoming a private investigator. She is the author of six nonfiction books, including “How To Find Almost Anyone, Anywhere” and has been a frequent speaker at PI conferences around the country. Tillman is also a licensed realtor.
Laurie Delk Chittenden,a singer and songwriter, has performed with a band and sang for prestigious events at the French Embassy. She even had the honor of singing at the US Postal Service’s first-day-of-issue ceremony for the Purple Heart stamp. Chittenden has earned honorable mentions in songwriting contests. Additionally, she has demonstrated her skills as an auctioneer, hosting benefit auctions for various causes.
Connie Maynord is an actor and professional model whose resume includes appearances in films, television shows, and commercials. Beyond her on-screen work, she can be seen in music videos, theater performances, and fashion shows. Maynord has twice won the title of first runner-up in the Ms. Senior Tennessee Pageant and, in 2019, was crowned Ms. Elite Tennessee North America. Actively involved in her community, Maynord serves on the boards of several charitable organizations.
Amanda Runnels Foster had a career in marketing before obtaining her real estate license. In 2019, she joined Southeastern Commercial Properties and is currently a team-managing broker. She also serves as the chair for Grace Place, an organization that aids single mothers in need. In her free time, you can find Foster fishing on Old Hickory Lake.
Valerie Connelly is the founder of Nightengale Press, for which she edited and published fiction and nonfiction books alike. Conelly has written five books, herself, including Calling All Authors: How to Publish With Your Eyes Wide Open. A member of ASCAP and the Nashville Composers Association, she has composed hundreds of songs, and produced nine albums of her music. Conelly is also an artist.
Courtney Rogerswas born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is a former member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. A retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, Rogers served as a Targeting Officer during Operation Just Cause in Panama and was named U.S. Air Force Targeting Officer of the Year. She was also instrumental in helping to build the first fully operational targeting cell in the region for Desert Storm 1. Rogers is also a public speaker and voice actor.
Bobette Spearis the president of the Newcomers & Community Club of Sumner County, an organization that offers a welcoming hand to residents. A retired school teacher with a passion for music, she is an accomplished pianist, in demand for her piano lessons. Spear is a past president of the Tennessee Federation of Music Clubs.
Morelia Cuevas,known as the“Rhinestone Heiress” is a board member and the special events coordinator for Nashville’s Women in Film and Television. One of her signature projects is the annual SWIFT (Southern Women in Film and television) Fashion Show, an event she began five years ago. Cuevas will serve as the co-host of “Bless Your Heart,” a local television talk show for women, now in preproduction.
Deborah Watson’s impressive martial arts skills earned her a black belt from the David Deaton Karate Studios. She works in real estate, as well as retail, and has achieved top sales for Nashville’s Betty Boots, a women’s western wear store. Besides that, Watson manages the career—and designs the costumes—of her husband, Tim Watson, a singer and fiddle player known as the Fiddle Man.
Lynda Evjen has a master’s degree in Theatre Arts and is also a graduate of the Stella Adler School of Acting. She has appeared in a number of films including Two Mules For Sister Sara and Rio Lobo and has toured with the USO. Evjen is the current president of Nashville Women in Film and Television, as well as the founder of HolidayFest of Sumner County, at which she appears annually as Mrs. Claus.
A calendar release party for the models, sponsors, donors, and special guests is scheduled to take place in late September at the Bluegrass Country Club in Hendersonville. This event will introduce the models and mark the public unveiling of the calendar. It will also be the first time the models have seen their final calendar photo. Each model will be presented with a copy of the calendar, and a special award will go to the model responsible for the most sales. In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a silent auction featuring items donated for the event.
The calendar is getting lots of buzz in Sumner County and gaining attention from media outlets. Recently Maynord and Courtney Rogers were interviewed on Nashville Today. And it’s not just local interest that they’ve generated, as orders and donations have come in from states like California, Illinois, Florida, and Texas.
But for Maynord, the satisfaction goes deeper. “The calendar project with has given me the strength to smile again.”
Have you seen Calendar Girls, the movie? Did it inspire you in some way? Would you consider purchasing a calendar (or some other merchandise) to support a cause? What cause might that be? What about creating merchandise to raise funds for a cause?