February 23, 2012

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Wedding bells rang in Chattanooga over the weekend and Jonny and Michelle Hoffner breezed into town to photograph the party for a good cause. The Minneapolis-based couple set a goal to photograph 50 weddings in 50 states, all within 50 weeks. This plan, aptly titled the Fifty Nifty Tour, was designed to raise $50,000 for victims of human trafficking.

The idea stemmed from a pinky promise. Since forming Paper Antler Photography in 2008, the Hoffners have teamed with She Dances, a Birmingham-based nonprofit, to donate 10 percent of their proceeds to the cause. She Dances is committed to providing holistic restoration for young girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited in Honduras. Having heard that the organization was opening a safe home in that Central American country, the Hoffners developed an idea for the tour and made a pinky promise to carry the plan through.

“Going down and meeting the girls in the safe home in person really put a face to this growing epidemic,” said Michelle.

After announcing the tour last winter, the couple had the opportunity to visit the home and meet the girls living there and receiving professional care.

“This is our effort to not be weighed down by the magnitude of the problem and to do what we can with our lives and with our jobs to make a difference,” she said.

Almost a year later, the plan has been set in action and the adventure has begun. Chattanooga was the second stop on the ever-expanding tour. The Hoffners planned most of their stops as they began to book, creating somewhat of a regional travel guide. However, plans changed and now they are traveling cross-country at more of a track-and-field sprint, booking gigs along the way. Having confirmed 35 weddings, they have reached 70 percent of their goal. They will continue to book as interest grows, but they are making strides to encourage wedding planners and event vendors to match their donation to the cause in order to reach their $50,000 goal.

Couples from across the country have contacted the Hoffners about the cause and are interested in becoming involved through their special day. Word of the tour has spread through referrals, word of mouth and endorsements through blogs, and the Hoffners do what they can to portray the quirkiness, joy and beauty of a moment.

Jonny and Michelle are as adventuresome, imaginative and honest as the work they produce. Jonny, a one-time rancher, and Michelle, from Ghana-bound to photography found, are certainly worth watching. In fact, another supplementary fundraising effort can be found on their website, thefiftynifty.com. If you donate to She Dances on Tuesday Pledge Day, Jonny just might karaoke for you and post it on their blog.

To stay informed about their travels and listen to interesting stories—think eye patches and hypnosis—follow them on Facebook or Twitter (#fiftynifty).  

February 23, 2012

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