It isn’t news to anyone by now that the Merb’ys 2018 calendar was a runaway success. It went viral this fall, with posts popping up on social media of national, and then international, coverage.

Kudos for the bearded b’ys and their terrific tails. A project of the NL Beard and Moustache Club, the profits were all to be donated to charity, specifically to Spirit Horse NL, an organization that does all kinds of good work with therapy horses.

Photo by Jessica Stack

Until this Saturday no one but the b’ys knew exactly how much money Spirit Horse would be receiving, but the big reveal on Saturday past was pretty darn big. $300,466 dollars to go towards caring for the therapy horses and to expand the work they do through the establishment of the Giving Hope Scholarship to attend the Spirit Horse Mental Health Program, for which applications will be available January 31.

Erin Gallant of Spirit Horse spoke to the crowd gathered at the Delta for the check presentation about the work the organization does, and dry eyes became harder to find than cleanly shaven faces. Spirit Horse takes the challenge of helping with the battle against mental illness very seriously; it was started with a horse who had lost its owner to suicide.

Gallant read a testimony of a person who felt that the peace and freedom they had found through their relationship with their therapy horse was the reason they are still alive today. Other Merb’ys also talked openly about mental health issues in the community and their own lives, and the need to fund groups who do work to alleviate suffering and supplement some of the services of our overburdened, underfunded mental health care system.

Hasan Hai, Merb’y-in-chief, was obviously over the moon to get to present the massive check. I asked him what he plans to do with all the buzz and momentum the 2018 calendar has generated.

“There will be a 2019 calendar,” he tells me, with some familiar faces and some new ones. They will be looking to garner as diverse and representative a bunch of Merb’ys as possible.

“We had people of colour in this calender, but we’d like to add to the diversity,” the lack of an indigenous Merb’y in this calendar being just one omission they’d like to rectify. There will be auditions for the next one due to volume of interest.

The group is looking for sponsors to help them achieve their goal of representing the province itself more fully next year. As there was no real budget for the 2018 calendar, all the photos were taken within about 10 miles of St. John’s, but for the new one they hope to get photos all across Newfoundland and Labrador.

New photographers and designers will get a chance to be apart of the magic as well, having their works featured on a now internationally famous calendar. Clare Fowler of Clare Dawn Couture had the time of her life preparing the Merb’ys wardrobes this year. Shelley Churchill did most of the accessories with the help of a friend, and the Merb’ys themselves helped a bit here and there. There are already exciting rumours about next year’s tails.

Another year of community building and helping others is the short version of what Hasan and the rest of the Merb’y  /Beard and Moustache / Spirit Horse crowd have planned for the year to come. They have this great calendar to help them keep track of time while they’re at it.