tampabay.com

A fundraiser in the buff

The Caliente nudist resort hosts the American Cancer Society's first-ever nude Relay For Life. Event T-shirts were optional for participants.

By JENNIFER STEWART
Published August 28, 2006


LAND O'LAKES - Some folks marched about in nothing but a T-shirt.

A topless woman charged $5 for a smooch at the kissing booth. Another topless woman coated her breasts with red and silver fabric paint, then blotted them onto a T-shirt for sale.

This wasn't your typical Relay For Life, one of the American Cancer Society's largest fundraisers.

This was a Relay For Life at the Caliente nudist resort.

The event Saturday night - the first-ever nude relay for the American Cancer Society - drew about 100 guests at the Caliente Resort & Spa, organizers said. The goal was to raise money for cancer research. Organizers had not calculated the proceeds by press time Sunday.

"Cancer impacts everyone," said Mel Toran, executive director of the American Cancer Society's Pasco, Hernando and Citrus units. "So there's no reason to exclude that particular community."

Nudists, in fact, may be at greater risk for skin cancer as they bare it all in the Florida sun.

A typical Relay For Life is an all-night event in which members of teams take turns walking or running laps at venues like schools and parks.

The nude relay at Caliente consisted of a 5-minute stroll past the swimming pool and tiki bar, where clothes-free crooners belted out karaoke. About 15 people participated in the stroll, some of them topless, others wearing nothing more than a purple American Cancer Society T-shirt. Volunteers hurriedly moved lounge chairs out of the way to make way for the procession.

Then it was back to Caliente's clubhouse for a reception and luminaria ceremony honoring loved ones.

The condensed relay at Caliente was perfect for Land O'Lakes resident Von Jakubiec. She finished her treatment for breast cancer - a double mastectomy with chemotherapy, followed by reconstructive surgery - at the end of last year.

"I wanted to do a small relay the first time around," Jakubiec said. "And get my husband involved, because he was my caregiver."

The nude relay was designed to increase awareness of the American Cancer Society in the Pasco County nudist community. It was also a precursor to a longer relay, minus the clothing, that Caliente will host April 21.

"Our goal here is to start forming teams now, so come April, we can have a full-blown event," said Caliente social director Brenna Barry.

Nationally, more than 4,200 communities held relays last year. Seven of those were in Pasco, where the highest grossing relay was in Trinity. That event raised about $155,000, Toran said.

The potential for revenue was a driving force behind the Caliente relay, too.

The nudist industry has grown by leaps and bounds - doubling in size in the 1990s and spending nearly $400-million in 2003 - but few charities target its population for their fundraisers.

When approached, however, Caliente members and guests have been generous: The resort has raised nearly $30,000 for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which is not affiliated with the American Cancer Society.

The idea for the Pasco benefit in the buff didn't come from American Cancer Society brass. It came from community representative Nicole Hahn, who used her connections to launch an event for central Pasco's nudist population. "It's kind of a big thing," she said.

So is Caliente.

The luxurious 120-acre resort features a hotel and private residences, a spa, and a more than 8,000-square-foot lagoon swimming pool with a grotto waterfall. The 33,000-square-foot clubhouse includes a restaurant, disco and sports bar.

The place received national exposure from a 2004 visit from Paris Hilton's TV show, The Simple Life II, and a mention in the March issue of Playgirl as one of the best places to frolic in the nude.

"They provide a great deal of economic impact," said Pasco County Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who was "Giggles" the clown - fully clothed - at the event.

Breast cancer survivor Carol Tedder learned of the event through her involvement with the group the Single Naturists of Tampa Bay. Tedder, who lives at the Lake Como resort in Land O'Lakes, has been a nudist since 1978.

She said those who are nonnudists, who are sometimes called "textiles," have a false impression of the community.

"They think we're just laying all over the place having sex," Tedder said. "I don't know. It's the farthest thing from it."

Relay participant and cancer survivor Bob Merrigan of Lutz had his prostate removed in March. He has been a Caliente member for about five years.

What did Merrigan think of a nude Relay For Life?

"It's perfectly natural to me," he said.

Jennifer Stewart can be reached at (727) 869-8631 or jstewart@sptimes.com.