This brief run through Manhattan was all about a good time for a good cause.
Some 100 runners participated in the annual “Cupid’s Undie Run” on Saturday to raise money for neurofibromatosis (NF) research and awareness for the genetic disorder that affects 1 in 2,000 births.
The largest pantsless party in the U.S., which takes place every February in cities across the country, kicked off with a warm-up party at the DL Rooftop & Lounge on the Lower East Side before runners, donning nothing but their knickers, hit the sidewalk pavement for the mile(ish) run to the Williamsburg Bridge and back in unseasonably warm February temperatures.
Cupid’s Undie Run was born in 2010 when co-founders Brendan Hanrahan, Chad Leathers, and Bobby Gill decided to strip down to their briefs and braved the frigid D.C. weather for a run through the nation’s capital to raise money for NF research and Leather’s brother Drew. Drew Leather had diagnosed with the rare disease at 16, and in 2009, became paralyzed after tumors formed on his spine. In 2015, Drew died of cancer at the age of 28 after one of the benign NF tumors turned cancerous.
NF includes all forms of neurofibromatosis (NF1) and schwannomatosis (NF2) that cause tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. The genetic condition can affect everyone, regardless of ethnicity and gender, and can lead to blindness, deafness, bone abnormalities, disfigurement, learning disabilities, disabling pain, and cancer. There is no cure yet, though clinical trials are underway.
Since its inception, Cupid’s Undie Run has raised over $23 million, with 100% of net proceeds going to the cause. The non-profit organization partners with the Children’s Tumor Foundation, the world leader in NF research.
Stephanie McLennan, co-director of Cupid’s Undie Run New York City, shared that about 200 people had signed up for the New York City run and raised nearly $50,000.
“It means more money for research for NF,” McLennan said. “It’s a rare disease, but it can be a particularly devastating disease, so it deserves just as much attention and research and money as other illnesses and ailments.”
Chloe McConnell attended the event with her boyfriend, Zack Carreon. McConnell was diagnosed with NF when she was one year old after she had developed brown spots on her skin.
At the après-run party, the 25-year-old shared that she inherited NF from her father. She said she was doing “incredibly well” and described NF as a “unique disorder.”
“If you’re a parent who has NF, your [child’s NF] could be very mild, or they could be very severe,” McConnell said. “My father, who I’ve gotten it from, is fairly mild, and I’m also very fortunate to be fairly mild. But my aunt, his sister, was very severe, and she passed away when she was 15 from NF-related complications.”
McConnell said raising funds and awareness for NF was “super important.”
“Right now, there is no cure for NF. There are treatments you could possibly take, which is good, but finding a cure is pretty important,” McConnell said.
Rhinebeck residents Heather and Patrick Kelly were dressed as Barbie and Ken and ran for their 17-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with NF at the age of one.
Heather Kelly shared that they didn’t take anything for granted.
“We don’t sweat the small stuff because there’s always something in the back of your mind that you’re worried about. So we let go of things that aren’t as important as they might be to other people,” Heather Kelly said.
Patrick Kelly praised Cupid’s Undie Run and the Children’s Tumor Foundation for working towards a cure.
“We hope for our daughter to have as close to normal of a life in the future as possible,” Patrick Kelly said. “Because when we got the diagnosis, we were uncertain about what her future would be. So it’s nice to know that there’s an organization trying to work towards solving some issues that she might have down the road.”
Jason Yarbrough participates in the event every year and joked, “Any excuse to take your pants off, I’m all for it.”
On a more serious note, though, Yarbrough said he was running in solidarity with NF patients.
“A lot of people that have this disease, it’s hard for them to put on their pants and have a normal life,” Yarbrough pointed out. “People take things for granted, working, living, going to places. You can’t go anywhere, you know, without no pants, right?”
It was the first Cupid Undie run for his friend Leslie Durant.
“They gave me some really fun underwear to wear, which I’m wearing today. I take my pants off for a good cause, basically,” Duran said. “We both believe in a lot of good that will come out of this.”
Michael Morris Mason has been an “undie runner” for ten years. Morris Mason raised over $6,400, making him the top fundraiser for 2024. He described the run as a fun event for a good cause and urged others to get involved.
“I like to do this event because it’s a fun event, but it’s also for a really good cause,” Morris Mason said. “The cause is for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, which actually provides funding to do the research to help hopefully find a cure for this disease.”