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Marquette Wire

Milwaukee firefighters model for fundraising calendar

Photo by Jennifer Brindley Portrait – Fuse Creative
Ignite the Spirit 2024 calendar.

Muscular Milwaukee firefighters are starring in a calendar, flexing not just their muscles but also their hearts, with the aim of raking in thousands of dollars for colleagues in need. The calendar, organized by Ignite the Spirit, aims to help firefighters in need when they may not be able to be at work due to personal reasons.

“When we had started that first winter, going back to 2018, we knew we’ve got one chance to really make a splash… I just kind of realized like we hadn’t had a firefighter calendar and it’s a super cliche thing,” Joe Flick, a fire lieutenant at the Milwaukee Fire Department and president of Ignite the Spirit, said.

Flick started the non-profit organization after seeing the tragedies some members were facing due to the impact of the job.

“One of them was fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the other one had a series of strokes that, you know, he was 33, turned him into a 60-year-old man overnight,” Flick said.

He said once the money comes in, the organization spends it directly on the families and helps out in whatever capacity is possible, such as funeral expenses or medical bills.

Above is the models on the 2024 calendar. Photo Courtesy: Jennifer Brindley Portrait – Fuse Creative

As for the calendar, the models said they had to go through preparation for the day of the shoot. The preparation begins in July where they take headshots to determine if they will be selected for the photoshoot later in the year.

Ariel Garcia, a Milwaukee firefighter and model for this year’s calendar, said he lost over 18 pounds in a month before the shoot, and it helped motivate him to keep going afterward.

“It gave me something to focus on so that the whole calendar as stressful as it was, it served its purpose. It helped me refocus and improve my life,” Garcia said.

Sharleah Dahlberg, a fire lieutenant and model for this year’s calendar, said she was initially hesitant, but instead felt empowered.

“I would just say the process in general has been very empowering. I was kind of nervous at first because I don’t know how I’m going to feel posing for photos. I wanted to maintain a certain degree of respect, especially in the rank as a lieutenant,” Dahlberg said.

Instead, she has had people reach out to her about the respect they have for her participating in the calendar.

“I’ve had multiple people reach out to me and tell me that they actually respect me for doing it because it takes a lot of courage to do something outside of your comfort zone for hundreds of people to see, so it’s been very empowering,” Dahlberg said.

Flick said that the organization now has sponsors to help continue the work in order to make sure that every dollar that comes in is used to help firefighters. He says it is a way to support the cause while also handing out 2,500 advertisements for other businesses.

He said the organization brings in between $25,000 to $35,000 in fundraising. One of those individuals who received assistance from this was Garcia when his wife passed.

“It is one of those things where you know you don’t think about it or prepare for when it’s sudden. I showed up at the funeral home and we’re talking and he just lets me know, ‘Hey, Joe Flick called me earlier and they’re covering this’ so it’s one of those burdens that helps you in your dark times,” Garcia said.

Another thing the organization does is help those with mental health issues, particularly depression and PTSD.

Dahlberg said that Ignite the Spirit not only funded a member’s medical visit to a leading center but also provided accompanying support, highlighting the importance of this help for someone facing tough times alone.

“Getting to learn something new, getting to serve my community, getting to train and stay in good physical shape, it’s honestly just one of the best things. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Dahlberg said.

For more information or to purchase a calendar, go to

This story was written by Uzair Qhavi. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Uzair Qhavi
Uzair Qhavi, Assistant News Editor
Uzair Qhavi is an assistant news editor at the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 year. He is a senior from Franklin, WI studying political science. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies and binging television shows. This year Uzair is excited to work on in-depth projects and have a fun start to his last year at the Wire.

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