On Saturday afternoon, more than 200 people stood shivering in their underwear at the starting line of Cupid’s Undie Run, a 1-mile race for charity through downtown Kansas City.
The runners huddled together penguin-style to protect their bare skin from the 22-degree wind chill, but as soon as the race started they spread out and sprinted like gazelles down Grand Boulevard, sparkly tutus and superhero capes blowing in the winter wind.
“Last year it was 17 degrees, so it’s actually warmer this year,” said Layne Whitehouse, a Cupid’s Undie Run organizer who helped bring the international event to Kansas City last year.
Cupid’s Undie Run started in Washington, D.C., in 2010 with the goal to “put the hilarity in charity.” It raised $2.8 million in 2014 for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending neurofibromatosis through research. Neurofibromatosis, or NF, is a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow all over the nervous system. It has few treatment options and no known cure.
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Kansas City was one of 38 cities in the United States and Australia that participated in the 2015 Cupid’s Undie Run. The event started at McFadden’s Sports Saloon, 1330 Grand Blvd., with a party that included a DJ, raffle, auction and awards ceremony recognizing the runners and teams who raised the most money.
Anthony Dixon of Lawrence and his team, the Pants-Less Party, raised a total of $1,470. Dixon wore boxer briefs and a skimpy Superman cape designed for a dog.
“It’s actually for a bulldog,” he said.
Dixon’s teammates Matthew Alpert of Lenexa and Tennyson Salmen of Raytown went for a lumberjack look with matching red flannel shirts and work boots. Alpert carried Salmen piggyback-style as he jogged toward the finish line.
At the end of the race, some runners bolted back into McFadden’s, but most stayed outside to exchange high-fives and cheer for others. Hilari Holt of Kansas City jumped and clicked her heels at the finish line before snapping a selfie with her friends. Holt, wearing a sparkly purple tutu and green tank top, volunteered at the event last year but decided to run this time around. She said the run wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be — “but I probably should have had two drinks before instead of four,” she said.
Whitehouse said the race might look like one big party, but many of the runners take fundraising seriously.
“Yes, it’s a 21-and-over event in your underwear,” Whitehouse said, “but it’s for the kids.”
By the time the race started at 1 p.m. Saturday, the Kansas City event had raised a total of $34,000.
MacKenzie Hanson of Kansas City collected $3,945 by asking for donations on Facebook and selling things she no longer needed. She also volunteered to be designated driver for her friends on weekends. In return, they donated what they would have spent on cab fare.
Hanson, who donned leggings, a tank top and a fuzzy red trapper hat that said “I’m with Cupid” for the run, said the event holds special meaning for her.
“A good friend of mine and her daughter have NF,” Hanson said. Raising money to find a cure, she added, “is the least we can do.”