Photo: John Canery

Cupid’s Undie Run Returns To Continue Fight Against NF

It all started with a crazy idea…

That’s how Cupid’s Charity, the group behind DC’s Cupid’s Undie Run on February 8, opens their story on the website. The idea of a mile(ish) run through a DC street in the winter came from co-founders Brendan Hanrahan, Chad Leathers and Bobby Gill. The trio dropped their pants in solidarity and frolicked for charity to help end neurofibromatosis (NF), a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.

The inaugural event kicked off in 2010, and has grown since. With different sister events offered all over the country, the fundraisers have helped raise almost $20 million. To learn more about the festivities, we spoke with race director Ashley Casper about the event’s mission, what people can expect from this year and why the cause is worth the chills.

On Tap: How have the races changed since 2010? Are there any plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary? 
Ashley Casper: The inaugural 2010 event took place in DC and was a trial run to determine local interest and potential fundraising levels, bringing in more than 500 participants and fundraising more than $12,000. Since our very first Cupid’s Undie Run in 2010, we have spread awareness of NF and raised more than $18,900,000, thanks to the 107,000 undie runners and 247,000 donations that have supported more than 225 events across the country. [All] of net proceeds from our programs goes specifically towards NF research through our partner, the Children’s Tumor Foundation. The event has gotten larger over the years, but the one thing that always stays the same is our mission to end NF.

OT: What are some aspects that surprise people who sign up? Are there things participants mention to you regarding things they didn’t expect? 
AC: People often are surprised to hear that we run in undies in February, but there is a really great reason for it! We run in our undies because people with NF can’t cover up their tumors. They can’t put clothes on to feel more comfortable, so why should we? Also, while the event is pants-optional, we encourage participants to wear what they are most comfortable in. Tutus, onesies, bathrobes, costumes (we even have a costume contest!) are all encouraged. The important thing is that people show up, have fun and raise money for charity!

OT: What are some of the festivities people can expect aside from the race? What kinds of activities are planned? What are the ones people respond to most?
AC: At Cupid’s Undie Run, the party is as big as the one mile(ish) run is “brief.” Thanks to the support of local sponsors like DC Fray, Hot 99.5 and DCW50. The four-hour party features a DJ, a photobooth, mascots, awards for top fundraisers and a lot of energy.

OT: Have any pointers for first timers? 
AC: First, join or start a team, Cupid’s is a lot of fun with friends! There are prizes for top team fundraisers and people are very creative with team costumes. One of my favorites from 2019 was an entire team dressed as Waldo from Find Waldo. Two, layer up! Even if you’re wearing undies, you can add knee socks, scarves, hats and gloves to stay warm. Three, if your outfit does not leave room for pockets, no problem! Cupid’s offers fun awards for fundraising for NF and if you raise $250, you earn official 2020 Cupid’s undies PLUS open bar – no need for pockets.

OT: How do you all establish the goal year by year? 
AC: Our mission is to end NF and that is what drives us every year to increase fundraising and awareness. We’re always pushing ourselves to create the best event possible for our participants and increase our fundraising.

OT: Lastly, what does it mean to you to be apart of an event like this, with a fundraising angle? 
AC: It’s very rewarding to be a volunteer Race Director for the DC Cupid’s Undie Run. I have met so many wonderful people and families affected by NF, and the money we raise has a very real impact on their lives. The Foundation’s research initiatives have generated 116 pre-clinical studies that have led to 16 clinical trials. Being a part of an event that truly puts the FUN in fundraising and has such a positive impact on those affected by NF means everything to me. Every one mile(ish) we run and every dollar we raise gets us one step closer to a cure.

For more information about the race or how to get involved, visit www.cupids.org