Thursday, November 24, 2005

Florida Nudists Raise Funds for Katrina Victims

They'll Give With Shirts Off Backs
Published: Nov 14, 2005

LUTZ - -- Van Bradley is looking for a few good nudists.

Bradley, manager of Lake Como Family Nudist Resort, is specifically looking for a nudist family affected by Hurricane Wilma. The Bay area nudist community is ready to adopt that family, give them free housing for six months and donate money to help them get back on their feet.

No one has yet come forward to accept that offer, but that didn't stop nearly 400 nudists from holding a hurricane relief benefit at Lake Como on Sunday. A $5 donation gained people entry to the clothing-optional event, which featured live music, food and, ironically, clothing vendors.

Sunday's benefit was the first time four of the Bay area's largest nudist facilities -- Caliente, Lake Como, Paradise Lakes and Gulf Coast Resorts -- have come together for an event. Bradley, who often wears shorts so he has a place to carry his keys and cell phone, said the previous separation was the result of old-fashioned competition.

"We're all in business," said Bradley, who left his job as regional manager for a national company three years ago to move to Lake Como with his wife. "Even though it's a lifestyle, we all have to make money."

This explanation is from people who choose the lifestyle to free themselves from the constraints of money. In nudist communities, no one worries about how expensive your clothes are, said 27-year-old Lake Como resident Jessica Ward.

"You can't lie about who you are because it's out there -- so to speak," said Ward, who was topless but wearing a sarong.

Ward -- who also paid homage to her boyfriend's band, Free Beer, by painting the phrase "Got Beer" across her chest -- moved to the resort seven months ago. It was an unexpected move for Ward, who was wary when Calvin Ealy, a two-year resident of Lake Como, discussed his lifestyle during their first dinner date to Chili's.

"I told him he can take me to Chili's anytime he wants, but I'm not going where all those naked people are," Ward recalled.

Ward said she was too distracted by the idea of being surrounded by nudists to understand the real reasons people become nudists, such as being part of a community that emphasizes tolerance and kindness. After several visits to Lake Como, she started to change her mind.

"They just welcomed me here," she said. "It was just so friendly."

If the nudists don't find another nudist family to accept the money raised Sunday, Bradley said, they'll donate to nonnudists. And now that the Bay area nudist community has come together, they plan to make the communitywide gathering an annual event, Bradley said.


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