Editor's note: Kathryn McQuade is an associate producer at "Piers Morgan Tonight." She is participating in Cupid's Undie Run in New York City tomorrow afternoon.
Drew Leathers was diagnosed with Schwannomatosis, a rare form of the genetic disease Neurofibromatosis (also known as NF) that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. Bedridden by sixteen from the tumors rapidly absorbing his life, his family and friends were desperate to spread awareness and fund raise for the Children’s Tumor Foundation which works towards finding a cure for Neurofibromatosis. Drew’s older brother, Chad, with friends Brendan Hanrahan and Bobby Gill wanted to do something to bring attention to Neurofibromatosis and help find a cure for all the various forms of the disease, all of which have few treatment options available. They decided to take action in an extremely unconventional way.
The typical cookie cutter fundraising 5k was the last thing these three had in mind. “We wanted to do something unique that caught the eyes of passers by and really got runners excited about what they were doing,” says Gill. “This whole [underwear] thing started as a joke.” In January 2010, Hanrahan got the idea to do a run with all the runners in their underwear through Washington, D.C. which was sure to catch plenty of attention in the U.S. Capitol. Anxious to get the ball rolling on the project the three outward thinkers decided Valentine’s Day would be the perfect holiday for this run as the cold weather made stripping down to one’s underwear and stepping out for a jog all that more shocking, memorable and hilarious. “Plus, you’re spreading the love,” adds Gill. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.
In February of 2010 they pulled it together. “We literally thought we'd have maybe 50 or 60 people in attendance,” says Gill. On the morning of the race they were in for a surprise surge in attendance during one of Washington’s most destructive snow storms. Over 650 showed up people ready to donate, strip to their skivvies and run through the snow covered streets of Washington, D.C.
Tomorrow marks the third annual Cupid’s Undie Run but this year they have more attendees than they ever thought possible. What started as a hopeful joke between friends has gone nationwide with thousands of participants in six United States cities participating in the dead of winter, ready to go for a jog sans-pants. This year Seattle, Denver, Cincinnati, Atlanta and New York City are full of runners who are ready to bare all and go for a brisk run on Saturday, February 11, in the name of fighting tumors.
This year's run is already a success and it hasn’t even started. With a nationwide donation goal of $100,000, the six cities have already grossed a total of over $250,000 and the donations keep rolling in. “The push to expand nationwide was a big move, but the communities in each of these cities have all pulled together to build great excitement and do some awesome things for the cause,” Gill says excitedly.
In its third year this small group of friends has turned a small project into a national event. “If we have any say in it, Valentine's Day will soon be synonymous with Cupid's Undie Run and spreading the love to those battling Neurofibromatosis,” Gill hopes.
For more information on Neurofibromatosis and to donate to the Children’s Foundation please visit the Cupid's Undie Run website.