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The traditional firefighters calendar isn't just for one gender, any more. The 2005 Canadian fundraising calendar is reversible -- featuring one calendar of men and another of women.

Firefighter and project co-ordinator Shelli Varela said public demand led to the dual calendar.

"I was the co-ordinator of the first-ever Canadian national all-female firefighters calendar," said Ms. Varela, who has been a firefighter for 10 years in the Toronto area.

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"But everywhere we went they would ask if we had a male calendar -- and when I did the men's calendar, conversely they were asking about the female calendar."

Ms. Varela said firefighter calendars have been around for ages, some with both genders. But she said this is the first time a calendar includes an equal number of men and women. The 2005 calendar, which sells for $15, marks her fourth year working on the project.

The featured firefighters are from across Canada and represent paid and volunteer services.

The calendar project gave its subjects a chance to meet other firefighters and help a good cause, Ms. Varela said.

Proceeds go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and $5 from each calendar sold by volunteer fire departments goes toward new equipment and community safety programs.

Muscular dystrophy has long been a preferred cause for North American firefighters, but this year's fundraiser has special meaning.

The calendar is dedicated to poet Mattie Stepanek, 13, of Rockville, Md., who died of muscular dystrophy this year.

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The best-selling author was a fan of fire departments and had written several poems in their honour.

"One of the guys that I work with was very, very close to Mattie. In fact, he was a pallbearer at his funeral," Ms. Varela said. "As we were writing the tribute, we managed to get a hold of his mother for her approval."

But the firefighters' efforts to honour Matti didn't end there. Ms. Varela said a group of Toronto firefighters drove all night to Chicago to deliver a package of the calendars to television's Oprah Winfrey Show.

"He had appeared on Oprah a number of times," Ms. Varela said of the boy.

"We thought, what a great thing if we would be able to get on the Oprah Winfrey Show to promote [the calendars]for Muscular Dystrophy in memory of Mattie, but also because he was such a big fan of the fire service."

The firefighters are waiting to hear whether they will be featured on the talk show.

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The 2005 firefighters calendar is available throughout Ontario at Foodland and IGA stores, and across Canada via the Web. Details about ordering can be found at .

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