Images of buff Charleston-area firefighters holding cute rescue animals are continuing to get worldwide exposure thanks to an ongoing onslaught of international publicity.
The society had to order 5,000 more calendars after customers from every continent but one snatched up the first 6,000 printed.
"It's been pretty incredible," said Caroline Eller, director of development for the animal society and producer of the calendar campaign. "It's been really overwhelming in a good way."
The craziness started a week ago when Buzzfeed posted several photographs of shirtless firefighters on its site. Next thing Eller knew, media agencies across the globe were lining up to write about it.
The calendar, which sells for $20, features 15 firefighters (13 men and 2 women) from five area departments. While hunky firefighter calendars are nothing new, Eller said what made this one special is the cute animals and the fact that it benefits them.
"It's the fact we have these rescue animals with the firefighters," Eller said. "Let's be honest, ladies love a guy in a uniform and a puppy or a kitten, and when you combine them it's pure gold."
The orders and media calls have been rolling in ever since. They've sold 2,000 calendars in the last week to customers from Australia to Sweden, compared to 5,300 sales since it launched in September. The calendar website has had nearly 50,000 visitors in the last week, compared to 70,000 in the first three months.
Eller said they're anticipating another surge starting Friday when the calendar is scheduled to appear on 'The Today Show with Kathie Lee and Hoda.'
"Goodness, I have been saying since we started this how (Kathie Lee and Hoda) would absolutely love this," Eller said. "They love animals and they love Charleston. The goal is to get them to attend our debut party for 2016."
What's amazing about the promotion is it's only in its second year. Last year it netted $107,000 and this year they're hoping for at least $225,000.
But even with the unexpected success, Eller said they'll probably raise about half of what they need annually to fund Toby's Fund, which is used to treat the sick and injured animals they take in.
"It's been a huge boost but this campaign doesn't fund all of Toby's Fund by any means," Eller said.
She said they're incredibly thankful for all of the orders and to the firefighters, who dedicated a lot of time and energy to pose for the calendar and help promote it.
"It continues to be an honor to work with them," Eller said.
She said the firefighters are taking their new-found celebrity in stride.
"I think they're a little in shock," she said. "Some of them see it and others have no idea it's happening. I think it's just shock and awe."