Stripping down to skivvies for philanthropy

An unusual herd of nearly naked runners took to the chilly streets of D.C. Saturday.

Donning little more than underwear and sneakers, about 800 runners and a few of their furry pets, ran down Pennsylvania Avenue to raise money for Neurofibromatosis treatments and research, a genetic disorder usually diagnosed in childhood that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. The debilitating disease has no cure.

All a part of the 2012 Cupid’s Undie Run, a national fundraiser for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, the event takes place one day a year in six cities across the country, attracting runners willing to bare all in freezing D.C. temperatures for a philanthropic cause. Organizers said about 3,000 runners participated nationally.

Ashley Lucas | Hatchet Photographer
Outrageous costumes are the chosen attire for Cupid’s Undie Run participants, many of whom relied on pre-race libations at the Pour House to prepare for the chilly run. The run went from the Pour House to the Capitol Building and then back to the bar.

“It is important to know that we did not come with the idea of an undie run and then go searching for a charity. We had the Children’s Tumor Foundation, and we knew we wanted to do something. We don’t try to build it as a sexy event. It’s just a fun, crazy thing that some people have on a checklist: ‘Do an undie run,’ ” event co-organizer Bobby Gill said.

Tickets sold out in Seattle and in D.C., topping both years’ previous registration numbers. Beginning at the Pour House at 319 Pennsylvania Ave., the 1.1 mile route looped around the Capitol Building, ending back at the bar, allowing runners to celebrate in all of their semi-nude glory.

D.C. resident Liz Resetar participated in the short run with her team wearing a construction-themed outfit, consisting of a fluorescent pink builder’s hat, a utility belt and not a lot else. Together, her team of five, dubbed the “Cracks on Cracks on Cracks” raised $2,000.

“I love it. Last year, we signed up a couple of days before on a whim, and it was the best day of 2011, so we couldn’t wait for the second time this year,” Resetar said.

Others dressed in bright printed boxers, red and pink sports bras, decorated headbands, ribbons and bows. Bubbles floated through the air, and glitter shone on naked legs and arms as a light flurry of snow began to fall.

Despite freezing temperatures, Resetar and her team were in high spirits.

“It’s cold, but running in your underwear for a race in June doesn’t mean anything,” Resetar said.

The hardy group of participants has been growing every year, raising more and more money for the cause. Last year, the D.C. run was capped at 500 and raised about $50,000. In its first year, the race raised about $10,000.

The top fundraiser this year was Nick Panza, whose efforts totalled $10,256.

Panza was motivated by a personal connection with the event. His daughter was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis and battles the genetic disease everyday.

“I am awed by the daily courage and grace my daughter Christine displays in managing this disorder. I can only hope that I handle my small gesture with a fraction of the dignity she displays every day,” Panza said.

The event anticipates a cumulative total of $270,000 in funds at the end of the six events in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Seattle, Denver, D.C. and New York.

“You don’t get to do this all the time. We’re in the nation’s capital, and I’m in my underwear. I would most likely get in a lot of trouble for this anywhere else. It’s a good time, and there’s no reason not to put yourself out there. Get ready for next year,” participant and organizer Zach Bender said.

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