When Dan Collier and Lou Kurraru were invited by a friend to participate in Cupid’s Undie Run this year, the two Hanover residents anticipated a full day of fun as they ran through the streets of Baltimore in their underwear to raise money to fight neurofibromatosis.
It turned into a solemn occasion instead.
Two weeks before the Valentine’s Day event, their friend and decorated participant Megan Rowe died from complications with neurofibromatosis.
“We are here in memory of our friend Megan,” Collier said. “She loved this event and passed away two weeks ago.”
Rowe had been running in the race since she learned about it in 2013.
Her 72-year-old father, Mike Rowe, gave a brief speech at the event to commemorate his daughter’s courage. And all three – Rowe, Collier and Kurraru – said they handled the race the only way Megan would have wanted them to: celebrating despite below freezing temperatures.
“It’s an intriguing event and participating gives them a sense of cancer research on a lot of levels,” Mike Rowe said.
Every February, thousands of people dress down to their underwear and take part in cupid’s runs all across the United States to raise awareness and money for NF. At this year’s event in Baltimore, an estimated 150 people showed up for the one-mile long run on a day when wind chills made the air feel like two degrees.
“I didn’t think everyone would be so naked,” said Makayla Mazza, a bartender at Luckies Tavern who was experiencing her first Cupid’s Undie Run.
This year Baltimore’s run raised $80,000 – $5,000 more than last year. Internationally, the races raised $3.5 million in 2016..
All proceeds go to the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF), a non-profit organization based in New York that funds research and treatments for neurofibromatosis. Participants run in their underwear to symbolize that clothes can’t provide comfort for people suffering from NF.
Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow throughout one’s nervous systems. Those battling the disease typically have pale or brown patches on their skin above or near the affected nerve. It can cause learning disabilities, chronic pain, blindness, deafness, paralysis and death.
The Baltimore race was organized three years ago by Kate Gibson, the associate production manager at Center Stage in Baltimore, and Christine Barnanic, the chief operating officer of Brand Builders in Washington.
The two were interested in organizing a Cupid’s Undie Run in Baltimore because they believed young people would enjoy the mix of partying and philanthropy that comes with the event.
The first Cupid’s Undie Run was held in Washington in 2010, when an estimated 650 runners weathered cold temperatures and six feet of snow. Since then, Cupid’s Undie Run has donated $8 million to the CTF and is now held in 36 cities around the country as well as the Australian cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
“At the end of Cupid’s Undie Run six years ago in Washington, D.C., I met the founders and suggested that they host one in Baltimore,” Gibson said. “Instead they asked if I was interested in organizing it.”
The founders of the DC race – Chad Leather, Brendan Hanrahan and Bobby Gill – paired Gibson up with Barnanic and the two began planning the first Baltimore event, which was held in 2013.
Cupid’s Undie Run has been hosted by Luckie’s Tavern at 10 Market Place in Baltimore for the past three years. Matthew Kyle, the bar manager at Luckie’s, said he loves the whole experience.
“Last year I saw a middle-aged man dance on the bar in a Speedo as people preceded to stuff it with cash,” Kyle said.
Cupid’s Undie Run was sponsored by 98Rock – 97.9 FM in Baltimore.
Kirk McEwen, the radio station’s afternoon host and Ravens’ game day play-by-play man, said he was happy to help raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation because he grew up with a nonverbal, autistic brother.
This was Patrick Prada and Lindsey Moritz’s first Cupid’s Undie Run. Prada said his father was recently diagnosed with cancer, and for the past few weeks he has been searching for a charity to join and for an unconventional Valentine’s Day date.
“We were happy to find out that this helps kids with cancer,” Prada said. “We aren’t the mushiest couple in the world, and Lindsey and I were looking for a different way to celebrate the Valentine’s weekend.”
Rowe said he was pleased with the outcome while Collier and Kurraru said they were happy to have had the experience. The three didn’t imagine that were going to have so much fun despite their recent loss.
“We will definitely return next year,” Rowe said.