In a historic week for the country, there’s been a lot of discussion about media, most of it negative. That’s why it made me feel good to talk to two administrators who saw a McKnight’s article and ran with an idea.

Dove Healthcare–West Eau Claire Assistant Administrator Suzy Ketterhagen, NHA, and Ashley Leick, NHA, Director of Dove Healthcare–Orchard Hills Assisted Living and Rutledge Home, read a story last year about an assisted living facility’s calendar. The calendar — featuring nude residents — was wildly popular and had gone into its second printing. Ketterhagen ordered one and the women began brainstorming earlier this year about whether they could do their own calendar.

They had previously raised $10,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association of Chippewa Valley. and wanted to increase the amount, they told me Wednesday.

“We looked at some themes and decided to go with the movie theme,” Leick said. Residents are featured in homages to classic quotes, such as Rocky Balboa or Mary Poppins. The women picked out residents, went to the theater guild to ask for costumes, had release forms signed and worked with a photographer. They started with one photo shoot at one facility and went from there.

“The next thing you knew, we had 13 photos,” Ketterhagen said.

As the calendars arrived last week, Ketterhagen exhibited a stroke of public relations genius: She sent out a short release to media outlets, including McKnight’s and a local television station. Lo and behold, Dove and its calendar made the news during a break in coverage of election results. This is a very good example of the value of thinking about counterprogramming for your local news outlets.

“The guy who contacted us said, ‘With everything going on with the election, I want something softer,’” Ketterhagen recalled.

For other communities and providers who want to showcase their residents in a calendar, Ketterhagen and Leick shared some of their tips. One, remember that some of the people involved in planning a project like this don’t always work with residents, so extra time may be needed to make sure a resident is prepared. Enough time also must be allotted for hair and make-up.

“You have to be patient,” Leick said. But the end product was worth it.

“With our residents with dementia it is so rewarding. One of our residents in the calendar who has Alzheimer’s saw it and she gave me a light tap. She said, ‘That’s not me, I’m not in a calendar,’ and then she smiled. It was so rewarding to see how happy they are.”

In addition to residents, the women are hoping employees talk about the calendar and word of mouth helps sales. So far, they’ve sold more than 100 copies. Their goal is to make $15,000 by selling 1,000 calendars, an attainable goal largely because they are underwritten by community sponsors. All proceeds will go back to the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.

“We did get a lot of sponsorship from the community. Different vendors donated money so we could donate 100% of the proceeds,” Leick said. Now, “our residents have a competition going to see who can sell the most calendars to their families.”

The women said they are happy that four months of hard work is now paying off.

“We are super proud of what we’ve done. If you really work hard, you’ll know the end product will be great,” Leick said.

This week, that’s a message I’m sure many of us need to hear. Keep up the good work, Dove Healthcare.

If you are interested in purchasing the calendar, email or call (715) 552-1030, ext. 170. You can also mail a check for $15 to Dove Healthcare–West Eau Claire, 1405 Truax Boulevard, Eau Claire, WI 54703.

Follow Elizabeth @TigerELN.