MerB'ys live on in cartoon, documentary after 2020 calendar
Glitter beards, mermaid tails and promoting healthy body image all in one
It started as a joke three years ago, but the MerB'ys calendar has been a huge success, with hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for local charities.
And while the 2020 calendar may be the last the group prints, founder Hasan Hai said the MerB'ys will live on.
"We're actually just shifting our energies to other projects, so the MerB'ys aren't going away — the calendar might be on pause for the next little while, and we're not closing the door to ever having a calendar, just that there will not be one in the following year," Hai said.
"But we have a ton of great projects coming up this year that we're really excited to work on."
Hai started the MerB'ys project when a friend showed him a photo of a burly man wearing a mermaid tail, challenging him to take a similar picture.
That dare grew into a group project, with local men posing for a calendar, and the proceeds of sales going to a local charity, Spirit Horse NL.
"I was hoping for $1,000, maybe $2,000. And that would have been a success," Hai said of that first calendar.
"I was hoping that my friends and family would hopefully buy maybe half the calendars of the 100 or 200 we were hoping to sell, and then everything else would just be pity buys from everybody else who just thought it was a funny idea."
Instead, it raised more than $300,000, with more than 14,000 copies sold across more than 30 countries.
Proceeds from the second calendar for 2019 went to Violence Prevention Newfoundland and Labrador, with more than $200,000 raised from sales of over 12,000 calendars.
The money made from the 2020 calendar will go toward Planned Parenthood Newfoundland and Labrador.
Hai said it takes a lot of work putting the calendar together, thanks to a core group of volunteers with his NL Beard and Moustache Club.
"It is a success, and it's been doing great — I mean in three years we made a boatload of money — but it's a lot of work," Hai said.
"We have full-time jobs, we have families, and this is a huge undertaking. What a lot of people don't realize with the calendar is that it's a year-round thing."
The calendar is available to order online, while printed copies can be found at local retailers, until late February.
Hai said while it's just a couple of months until that final cheque is handed over, it won't be the end of the MerB'ys.
"It started as a fun idea that grew up as a great fundraiser, but what really grew from there was the themes that came about from the MerBy's, that of healthier expressions of masculinity, promoting and celebrating body positivity and showing and depicting men in these non-traditional ways," Hai said.
The group is now working with a local animation studio on a possible cartoon, while a documentary on the MerB'ys is in the works with CBC Gem. Hai said there are also a number of other MerB'ys-branded things coming down the line he can't talk about yet.
And while the calendar is done for now, Hai said the MerB'ys will still be around.
"It was a huge moneymaker as far as charitable fundraising. Trying to do a fundraiser by selling a print calendar was maybe not the smartest idea to begin with, but we've had great success. But we can't ride that forever," he said.
"We will continue to support charities and the causes that we want to get behind in a variety of ways. Now, will that be a specific fundraiser? I don't know right now."
With files from the St. John's Morning Show