It was a brief run in more ways than one.
About 250 people signed up to bare some flesh Saturday for Cupid’s Undie Run on downtown Kansas City streets. In a city known for underground runs, this was a new take: Under garments
were in fashion.
The mile-long fun run, a benefit for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, began and ended with a party at McFadden’s in the Power Light District. The venue provided liquid fuel and courage to the unclad who braved temperatures in the upper 30s and brisk wind.
“It’s for a good cause,” said Heather Impens, an Overland Park resident who ran in memory of her cousin, Eric Parker. Parker died at age 33 in January of neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that lets tumors grow on nerves. “He’d battled NF his entire life and finally lost the battle,” she said.
Impens, who wore briefs and a sports bra along with a muffler and a sash with Parker’s name on it, said she raised $500 for the foundation, and a sister, running in Minneapolis, raised $700.
The Undie Runs, founded in 2010 in Washington, D.C., have expanded to 27 cities in the United States and three in Australia. About 20,000 participants were expected this year at all the runs.
The events — held on the Saturday nearest Valentine’s Day — have raised nearly $2 million for the foundation so far. Funds help pay for research into the tumors that can lead to blindness, deafness, learning disabilities, cancer and chronic pain.
Organizers think the 2014 Undie Runs will raise a total of $4 million, thanks to 12 cities, including Kansas City, that added runs this year.
Kelly Wilborn of Kansas City fudged a bit and wore a T-shirt instead of baring her midriff. Wilborn was born with NF, and her 8-year-old daughter also has tumors connected to the disease.
“I saw on Facebook that there was going to be a run, and I decided to do it,” Wilborn said, admitting it would have been nicer on a warmer day.
A Facebook note also brought Courtney Brink, Michael Nobo, Chelsea Jenks and Jennifer Cooper to the Undie Run. The foursome said they’d never heard of the disease but decided to run because the event sounded like fun. They added burgundy towels, like Superman capes, to their underwear outfits.
Race founders Brendan Hanrahan, Chad Leathers and Bobby Gill conceived the fundraiser after Leathers’ brother was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis..
They elected to “put the hilarity in charity” by having run participants wear only underwear under the mantra “minimal clothes, maximum support.”
And yes, drinking usually is involved. Participants had to be at least 21 years old, and establishments like McFadden’s are typical starting and stopping places for the runs.