Cape Coral police officers are taking off their shirts to help a member of their family.
It sounds strange, but that's the idea behind a 2010 calendar featuring musclebound male officers in the Cape Coral Police Department, including SWAT and motorcycle patrolmen, set to be released to the public this October.
About 1,000 calendars featuring pictures taken by Nocera Photo-graphic will sell for $10 each, mimicking the fund-raising efforts of previous Cape Coral SWAT Team and Fire Department calendars. The money raised will be donated to the family of motorcycle officer Damien Garcia, who was critically injured in a crash June 2.
Cherilyn Nocera photographs Cape Coral police officer Ray Schilke Friday morning at the Yacht Club Community Park. Cape Coral Police Department’s Special Operations officers are being photographed by Nocera for a 2010 calendar. Nocera, as well as other businesses, are donating their services for the calendar that the department will be selling for $10 each. Proceeds will go to Cape motorcycle patrolman Damien Garcia’s family to assist in his care. Garcia was seriously injured in an accident in June.
Garcia continues his paced recovery in a Miami hospital.
"Damien's trudging along and he's still here with us and he's fighting," said motorcycle officer Ray Schilke III, who posed for the calendar Friday at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. "He's making positive steps every day. I'm hearing that he's moving his fingers, he's counting, he's taking steps.
Schilke said the doctors weren't sure Garcia would make it through the night after he collided with an SUV on Cultural Park Boulevard, but Garcia's recovery has been steadfast.
"We are very confident that he's going to pull through, but it's going to be a very very long process," Schilke said. "He might need a nurse by his side for an extended period of time, constant care, until he can figure things out. He might need to go to a special rehab. We don't know what he's going to need because, fortunately, this is the first time this has happened to anyone in our family. We want to raise as much money as we can. We don't want finances to be the reason he can't get the full potential rehabilitation he deserves."
Schilke considers Garcia his brother.
"He's a motor officer and so am I, and I know that anybody out there would do this for a family member of theirs," he said. "It's no different for us."
Officers have to diet and work out on a strict regimen to prepare for the calendar shoots, Schilke said.
"I'm a very short guy and I've never really been in that great of shape, so this has definitely been a little bit different for me," he said. "I'm in the best shape of my life. For me, I'm very happy with the results I got. I worked really hard, I ate real good and I'm pretty happy with it."
Schilke was in the Army prior to joining the police department, and understands the value of fitness.
"To me, physical fitness is very important to doing your job. On the bike I sweat probably a gallon a day," he said.
Several Cape Coral companies have donated to the project, including Barbara Watts of Century 21 Realty.
"As soon as the name Damien Garcia came up, nobody even batted an eye, they said sign me up, what do you need from us, we're going to help you out," he said. "It makes me proud to serve this city just because even in these hard times everybody stood up to help a member of our city."
Schilke said he felt especially indebted to Watts, who offered to pay for the printing.
"I just want to go find her and give her a huge hug," he said.
Schilke hopes he'll be featured for June. "That's when my wife's birthday is," he said.
Cherilyn Nocera has photographed several officers for the calendar, including Schilke and others at the Yacht Club. Nocera will take a group photograph at the new Cape Coral Police Headquarters Saturday, in memory of Sept. 11. She is donating her time to the calendar shoot.
"They've been dieting for months and months now so it makes it very difficult for them to be comfortable in front of the camera," Nocera said. "They have to hold their muscles tight, they haven't eaten yet this morning or drank any water."
Nocera also shot the calendars for the SWAT Team and Fire Department free of charge, and currently is offering free pet photos for donations of cat and dog food to the Humane Society.
"My business has done so well in this county for the past 20 years," she said. "It's just a feeling of wanting to give back."
After Schilke posed shirtless against his motorcycle, propped on a sidewalk with the palms and Caloosahatchee behind him, he guzzled his Gatorade and looked forward to eating buffalo wings later in the evening.
"It's the only thing on my mind," he said.