When he came home from Iraq, Army combat engineer Steve Lulofs wanted to recapture that feeling of being "part of a team." So Lulofs formed a squad of friends to compete in a local barbecue contest. They did so well, he eventually created his Veterans Q Barbecue Sauces & Rubs company in Huntley as a way to raise money and awareness for veterans organizations. And that's how Lulofs ended up front and center on the "2019 Barbecue Boy Toys" calendar featuring some well-fed "dad bods."
"I'm the fat guy with the apron," says Lulofs, 39, who lives in Algonquin and has a career as an immigration analyst with the U.S. Department of Labor. Lulofs got talked into posing for the calendar cover but not one of the monthly shots. "I couldn't show too much," he says.
The calendar, available now for $14.99 online at VeteransQ.com, officially hits the market on Sunday, Veterans Day, at Ellyn's Tap & Grill in Glen Ellyn, with food, giveaways and an opportunity to meet some of the beefcake models. Ellyn's Tap & Grill is also donating 20 percent of the proceeds from the "BBQ Giveback Food Menu" to veterans organizations that Veterans Barbecue Inc. supports by donating 100 percent of profits after expenses.
"What is better or funnier than guys with dad bods eating barbecue food while in boudoir poses?" says Lulofs, who is a dad to Jackson, 15, Kendall, 9, and Parker, 6, and married to his wife, Robin.
"This calendar will provide us the opportunity to raise money for veterans organizations that we support," said Lulofs, who developed his sauces and rubs as a hobby, only to see it grow into a business that reaches more than 200 stores in 10 states. "The sole propose of our company is to raise funds for credible veterans organizations while putting out great products."
This year, the company is donating to two charities: TLS Veterans, which operates a transitional living program in Hebron for 20 homeless veterans and a resource center in McHenry; and the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation, which provides outdoor sporting activities at no cost to Purple Heart veterans.
During 2004 and 2005, Lulofs was clearing mine fields and providing security for military convoys in Iraq. "When I came back from Iraq, I wanted to be part of a team," Lulofs says.
"I know that feeling," says Matt Hoppensteadt, 32, of Batavia, who served in the Air Force for more than six years. "You miss that brotherhood."
Hoppensteadt was looking at the Facebook page for Chicago Veterans when he saw Lulofs' calendar idea. A union pipe fitter with Local 597, Hoppensteadt is now Mr. June, shirtless and eating a pulled pork sandwich.
"My wife (Megan) used to do modeling when she was younger and I thought this would be fun to do," says Hoppensteadt, father to daughters Skylar, 5, and Ashlyn, 2.
Mr. February, 39-year-old Jason Kupisch of Cary, comes from a family of veterans. "I smoke meat and barbecue, and I love his sauce," Kupisch says of his old fishing buddy, Lulofs. "I eat his stuff all the time, which is why I have the body I do."
Posed provocatively in shorts and shirtless on a swing, the coquettish Kupisch sports a bit of barbecue sauce on his cheek.
His wife, Corie, "thought it was hilarious," says Kupisch, father to Abigail, 6, and her 3-year-old brother, Crosby. "She's telling everyone she's married to a calendar model."