Stripping off to help sick tots in hospital

Staff from Rhino's Gym in Stamford pose for a charity calendar in aid of Great Ormond Street
Staff from Rhino's Gym in Stamford pose for a charity calendar in aid of Great Ormond Street

Gym staff and members have bared all for a charity calendar this Christmas to raise money for a cause close to their hearts.

The group from Rhino’s Gymnasium, in Stamford, decided to support Great Ormond Street Hospital after hearing the story of one of their members, Tony Sallis.

Mason Sallis

Mason Sallis

Tony, 27, from Wittering, and his partner Laura Hibbins, have been making regular trips to the hospital in London since the birth of their son Mason in July.

Mason was born with Pierre Robin Sequence, a condition that involves the lower jaw being either too small or set back from the upper jaw.

Some estimates put the number of babies affected by the condition at one in 30,000. It can be treated with surgery and the lower jaw will often “catch up” as the child grows, but the condition can lead to serious breathing, feeding and speech difficulties.

Tony, a policeman in Northamptonshire, said it was clear from the moment Mason was born that something wasn’t right.

He added: “When his umbilical cord was cut he wasn’t breathing, but doctors weren’t sure what was wrong.

“Great Ormond Street sent up a team and he was taken to London for a tracheotomy at just two days old.

“He came back to Peterborough two weeks later but caught pneumonia so was taken back to London.

“Since then he’s been down there and doctors have done numerous studies.”

Mason is still at Great Ormond Street, and a genetics team from Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge is also carrying out tests on him.

Tony had told gym staff and members about his partner’s pregnancy, and when they heard of Mason’s condition they were eager to do something to help.

Nick Swann, who runs Rhino’s with his son Sam, already had a collection box for Great Ormond Street in the gym and decided to raise more money for the hospital.

Tony said: “He started throwing some ideas around and thought we could do a version of Calendar Girls. He got a lot of interest because it was such a great cause.

“The guys were keen to do anything they could to help out.”

After recruiting 16 others to pose alongside himself and Tony, Nick brought in photographer Samson Price and set about finding creative ways to spare the group’s blushes.

The result is a 2014 calendar that Nick hopes will raise at least £2,000 for Great Ormond Street.

Tony, like most of the men posing for the calendar, was initially apprehensive about stripping off. But he said: “As nervous as I was it was a great laugh.

“It’s not an everyday occurrence, but all the lads were very much up for it because of the nature of the cause.”

Nick added: “To see 18 scantily clad guys walking around the gym was a sight to behold and something I never imagined I would ever see when we opened the gym in June.

“We approached local businesses who helped in the set up of Rhino’s along with some existing gym members to sponsor individual pages, covering the cost of the printing and enabling all sales and proceeds to go directly to Great Ormond Street.”

Five hundred calendars have been printed, with 70 sold since they went on sale on December 10. Nick hopes to sell the remaining 430 in the next few weeks.

He said: “Quite a lot of the people in the calendar have bought them, along with a wide range of other people.

“A lot of people have been buying them for secret Santa presents.

“But we don’t want it to be restricted to gym members. If we can sell the majority before Christmas that would be great.”

The calendar is on sale at the gym in Gwash Way Industrial Estate, off Ryhall Road, for a minimum donation of £5.

Nick hopes to hit his £2,000 target but the fundraising will not stop there. Should this year’s calendar prove successful, the gym’s female staff and members could take a turn next year.

Nick thanked all those who sponsored the calendar pages: Equilibrium Beauty Salon; Justin Wilson Plumbers; Steve Rudkin Electrical Contractors; J&L Ball Interior Decorators; Stamford Sports Nutrition; T&J Fine Foods; Matthew Wade Plumbing; Go-Protein Supplements; Geoff Capes and Lincs Throws Academy; JMS Gas Services; Silverback Gym Wear; Brayshaw Morey Accountants; and Spiegl Press Printers.

He added: “A massive thanks to Samson Price for the excellent photography and Linda Swann for her help with the props.”