By KRISTA STAUDINGER
UW News Lab
When purchasing special Valentine’s Day undergarments, the shopper typically has a significant other in mind. But Seattleites should plan on donning this intimate attire for a significant number of others this upcoming holiday weekend.
On Saturday, Feb 11, hundreds will hit the streets of Fremont wearing nothing but their underwear, all for a worthy cause. Seattle will host its first ever Cupid’s Undie Run that benefits the Children’s Tumor Foundation, which raises funds for the Neurofibromatosis (NF) family of diseases. Although many people are unfamiliar with NF, it affects one in 3,000 births in the U.S.
Childhood friends from Atlanta, Brendan Hanrahan and Chad Leathers are two of the co-founders of Cupid’s Undie Run. Leathers’ younger brother Drew has Schwannomatosis, a painful and debilitating disease where tumors grow throughout his nervous system.
Their community rallied behind the Leathers family and began an organization called Tumornators. When Hanrahan moved to Washington, D.C., he wanted to continue to spread awareness and raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, which funds Schwanno research.
“Knowing that a 5k or happy hour would be low-return, cookie-cutter events, I decided to do something different and have people run in their underwear for Valentine’s Day,” Hanrahan said.
Therefore the event began in Washington, D.C., two years ago. This year the run has expanded to five other cities around the nation, including Seattle. So why was Seattle selected?
Rebecca Zeller, Seattle race director and “queen of the Pacific Northwest Undie Run” (she responds to either title), said the answer is in the image of your average undie runner: “active, late 20s to early 30s, fun, and just shy of crazy. Doesn’t that sound like a Seattleite?”
Zeller also noted that Seattle has a strong history of philanthropy, community involvement and a love for slightly wacky events, making it an ideal location to expand Cupid’s Undie Run.
“We chose Fremont, aka ‘Center of the Universe,’ as it only makes sense that an event of this magnitude be held here,” Zeller added.
The event will start at noon at The Ballroom in Fremont, where runners can mingle and gain liquid courage to strip down to their race outfits. For those who wish to remain more modest in their attire, Valentine’s Day costumes or pajamas are also an option.
The 1.5-mile run will begin at 2 p.m. and end back at The Ballroom where everyone can warm up and prizes will be awarded to the top fundraisers.
Fundraising incentives are also offered to participants, such as custom undies for $25 worth of fundraising, a VIP open bar for $150 (Zeller said this seems to be people’s favorite), a custom robe for $500, an iPod Nano for $1,000 and so on.
One top fundraising team is “Pretty Pageant Panties,” with Mrs. Pacific Northwest Larissa Long as the top fundraiser. Long found out about the event through Twitter and has since used forms of social media to promote her fundraising.
Long has a personal connection to the event: “My cousin has been affected by tumors all her life and as a child she was told she would not live past 18; now she is 40,” she said.
Long credits organizations like the Children’s Tumor Foundation for helping extend life and hope for people living with tumors.
The fundraising goal for Seattle’s event is $50,000. Zeller explained. “Realistically, the first year for an undie run is to build a loyal base and the following year people really sink their teeth into it.”
This is what occurred with the first Cupid’s Undie Run in Washington, D.C. In the race’s first year $8,000 was raised, while over $50,000 was raised the second year. Seattle has already raised over $4,000, with two weeks left to fund-raise.
It’s not too late to register and help Cupid’s Undie Run become a success in Seattle; you can either start or join a team, or participate individually. Registration fee is $35 through Feb. 6. Space is limited, so register early to ensure your spot. If you are unable to run but still want to get involved, you can sponsor a runner or volunteer at the event. Visit www.cupidsundierun.com to get involved.
KRISTA STAUDINGER is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.